Product Returns Research Group

Product returns are an increasing problem in multichannel retail. The Product Returns Research Group is an interdisciplinary team of academics at the Universities of Surrey, Southampton, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Leicester and others, working with retailers, manufacturers, service providers and technology providers, to address the root causes of product returns and returns fraud, influence customer behaviour, and increase sustainability.

About us

We are a team of academics working with retailers and manufacturers to explore ways to streamline returns processes, assess returns' true costs, influence customer behaviour, and make returns more sustainable using circular economy concepts.

  • Our newest project (2023-2024) investigates how companies can assess circular business opportunities and is funded by CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
  • In 2020-2022, at the University of Southampton, we had an ESRC-funded project on understanding and modelling the factors that drive product returns and returns fraud. Results from this project include our analysis of factors that drive product returns and mitigating measures retailers can take; an overview of returns fraud types and how retailers can combat them; and a discussion of the un-sustainability of product returns and how to improve this aspect. Further publications will follow. 
  • The ground-laying project (2016-2019) was conducted by the University of Portsmouth on behalf of the ECR Community Shrink and On-shelf Availability group (now called ECR Retail Loss group). Our growing cross-institutional research group has emerged from it, with academics working on various streams of research relating to product returns.

These research streams include:

  • Drivers of product returns on consumer and retailer side
  • Returns fraud
  • The unsustainability of product returns
  • More circular business models
  • Communication with customers to influence their behaviour

Our work is catching media attention!

Explore our research

Product returns on BBC One: Politics South

Dr Regina Frei, Associate Professor of Digital Economy at the University of Surrey, and head of the Product Returns Research Group, was invited to join BBC's Peter Henley and his guests, Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Conservative MP for Gosport, and Olivia Bailey, Labour candidate for Reading West and ...

Our team

Dr Regina Frei


Regina Frei joined Surrey Business School in March 2023 as an Associate Professor of Digital Economy. Her main interests are sustainable value chains and the Circular Economy, with a special focus on product returns in multichannel retail. She has been awarded 20 research grants worth a total of £1.3M, and she has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers, whereof 28 jou...