The new year has begun. It snuck in so quickly, that it was almost imperceptible. The holiday season is behind us, and the year ahead has begun its cycle. The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus is depicted as having two faces. With one face he looks back into the past. With the other, he looks into the future. Thus, the month of January is essentially a portal from what was to what will be.

Philosophically, this is a very healthy way to look at retail. We can see many examples in the industry of how processes and workflows work in cycles and/or are multi-directional. Obvious examples are the supply chain with its forward and reverse logistics, omni-channel, with its holistic approach, not to mention the circularity of seasons, special times of the year and events that influence sales cycles.

What is less obvious is the two faces or the circularity of an actual purchase. Retailers will close a figurative door on a purchase once an item is sold. Essentially, that item only ever existed, but has no future. The second face of the purchase is the return. If this item needs to be reintegrated into the system, the retailer begrudgingly acknowledges the second face. But this face typically doesn’t look forward to a bright future. Rather, it is more often that not hurriedly discarded and forgotten again.

In January 2023, it would be wise for the retail industry to plan for the circularity of a purchase and to enable the second face of return. Like Janus – to look forward to what’s ahead and to enable a returned purchase to find the next best shelf. The second face- representing an optimal next state of being; whether this means that a return  is resold, recycled, or donated, or anything in between and beyond.

To look at sold purchases as a closed door, is a mistake. After all, if that door reopens, on the other side is a customer who is trusting and optimistic that the retailer will welcome him/her back in when they express their regret for their purchase decision.

And that brings us to a final point, that same Roman god – Janus – is also considered the god of doors. If Newton’s third law of motion states, what goes up must come down, we would suggest the Janus corollary, a door that opens must close, and a door that closes must open. With opening and closing doors and circularity in mind, OtailO bids you a happy new year. May this be the year where purchases are seen from all angles, the supply chain is forwards, even when it’s backwards, and omni-channel takes returns to multiple new directions and destinations.


Photo by Filip Kominik on Unsplash