Original Research

Supply chain integration in the product return process: A study of consumer electronics retailers

Wynand Mostert, Wesley Niemann, Theuns Kotzé
Acta Commercii | Vol 17, No 1 | a487 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v17i1.487 | © 2017 Wynand Mostert, Wesley Niemann, Theuns Kotzé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2017 | Published: 26 July 2017

About the author(s)

Wynand Mostert, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Wesley Niemann, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Theuns Kotzé, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The increasing complexity and levels of competition facing firms have reiterated the need to integrate the flow of goods and information within and between firms. Limited research has, however, been done regarding this integration in terms of reverse logistics.
Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perspectives of retailers regarding supply chain integration in the context of product returns for consumer electronics.
Method: A generic qualitative research strategy was used for this purpose. Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with managerial staff involved with the product returns process at large retailers.
Findings: The main findings indicate that the retailers made efforts to increase internal integration relating to improving information availability, aligning cross functional processes and improving inter-firm relationships. External integration efforts attempted to improve the intra-firm flow of information, reduce the number products returned to suppliers, expedite the returns process in specific instances and align processes. A narrow supplier-orientated span of integration was identified in this context, with integration efforts mainly targeting the start of the returns process to reduce return volumes. The study identified benefits attributed to both internal and external integration and barriers to internal and external integration relating to transactional relationships and suppliers who are incapable of integration.
Contribution: Academically, this study expands the literature on supply chain integration in an unexplored context. For managers, this study identifies various reverse logistics integration barriers and details what practices and strategies improve the probability of successful integration efforts.


Supply chain integration; retail reverse logistics; product returns; returns management process; qualitative


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