SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Two entrepreneurs from South Bend hope to make their mark in the e-commerce sector, while also keeping waste from ending up in the landfill. Business partners Rod Baradaran and Ryan Ryker have launched Zokos, an online reseller of products returned to big-box retail stores. They say with the rise of online buying, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they saw a business opportunity.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Baradaran said returns on items sold online are higher than those purchased in a store.
“Retail returns are about 10% of all the products that the retailers sell. While on e-commerce, it’s closer to 30%,” said Baradaran. “A lot of these e-commerce facilities, they’re just simply throwing out the products that are getting returned simply just because they don’t have the time or the room to be able to process these products.
Baradaran says big retailers, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, will contract with a third-party liquidator to get rid of the returned items, like kitchen and bathroom fixtures.
The team has purchased truckloads of goods and placed the items in their warehouse, where the products undergo inspection. Baradaran developed an app that helps standardize the inspection process and to ensure the products have the required parts.
“We’re so confident in our ability to grade these products and inspect them, we offer a 90 day return policy,” said Ryker. “We’ve been able to kind of standardize out that inspection process of these returns.”
Ryker says their products are on average 40% – 60% off the cost of traditional stores. He says not all of the products have been used or even pulled from the box.
“A lot of retailers will pull things from a shelf because of a change in the packaging,” said Ryker. “Some of the products we receive are actually brand new, as well as returns. So, it runs the full gambit.”
In addition to the online purchases, Zokos has also opened a “resale lab” in South Bend that allows customers to shop in-person.
“We’re able to offer better deals locally,” said Ryker. “Because when we sell local, we don’t have to shipping or pay these platform fees. Plus, it’s a little bit greener to we don’t have to send this stuff halfway across the country.”
The partners say they purchased a 16,000-square-foot warehouse but they are already running out of space, but they say that’s a good problem to have.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Ryker.