National Retail Federation Acquires Reverse Logistics Association

Retailer association sees fit as circular economy grows

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The National Retail Federation has acquired the Reverse Logistics Association, the association announced today.

NRF made the announcement during RLA’s Leadership Summit, taking place in Atlanta this week.

“NRF has a long history of convening supply chain professionals to collaborate and develop resources that improve the retail industry. Retailers understand the importance of sustainability practices and the environmental, economic, social and consumer benefits that accompany them,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. 

Terms of the transaction were not released.

RLA was founded in 2002 to fill what it found to be a gap in the “aftermarket supply chain.” That term was refined to become reverse logistics, which has become a critical part of the supply chain as e-commerce has exploded over the past decade.

RLA estimates reverse logistics is equal to between 3% and 15% of gross domestic product – at least $360 billion and as much as $1.8 trillion per year.

Membership in RLA exceeds 150 companies currently.

“Joining NRF is an exciting opportunity for RLA and our members,” said RLA Executive Director Tony Sciarrotta. “NRF recognizes reverse logistics as the backbone of the circular economy and understands how it plays a vital role in broader sustainability initiatives for the retail industry. Through this partnership, RLA will continue to reach industries investing in the circular economy and enhance NRF’s long-term commitment to retail’s supply chain and sustainability efforts.”

Sciarrotta took over the association in 2016, becoming the first executive director of RLA.

NRF sees a fit for RLA as the circular economy – the concept of turning gently used or “pre-loved” products and excess inventory – gains traction. The reverse logistics industry manages the collecting, sorting, repairing and refurbishing of products for resale or recycling.

NRF members include many of the world’s largest retailers, many of whom are building out significant reverse logistics operations.

“As consumer demand for sustainable offerings continues to increase, RLA’s reverse logistics expertise will help our members to ‘close the loop’ and accelerate the emergence of the circular economy,” said Shay.
NRF Vice President of CSR and Sustainability Scot Case told Logistics Management that there were various drivers for this acquisition.

“As the leading authority and voice for the retail industry, NRF provides retailers with access to vital information and resources to help them succeed,” he said. “The acquisition of the Reverse Logistics Association was a logical step as NRF and our members continue to invest in sustainability initiatives, including the emerging circular economy. NRF and RLA have longstanding history of collaboration as reverse logistics has become a more prominent part of retail operations and the industry’s broader sustainability initiatives.”

Case also added that RLA and its members understand the reverse logistics space better than anyone else.

“This partnership provides RLA members with opportunities to scale successful and more sustainable solutions within the retail industry,” he said. “As sustainability and circularity have become more important for both consumers and retailers, NRF members will continue to receive the most forward-thinking innovations, research and information to support their long-term sustainability and supply chain initiatives.”

(With reporting from Jeff Berman, group news editor for Peerless Media)

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About the Author

Brian Straight, SCMR Editor in Chief
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Brian Straight is the Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered trucking, logistics and the broader supply chain for more than 15 years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. He can be reached at [email protected], @TruckingTalk, on LinkedIn, or by phone at 774-440-3870.

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