BACKGROUND : Reverse logistics (RL) practices have previously been viewed as a cost drain, but
have received greater attention from practitioners because of increasing competition and
PURPOSE : The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to uncover the main internal and
external drivers and barriers of RL within major South African grocery retailers.
METHOD : Eleven face-to-face, semi-structured interviews and one telephonic interview were
conducted with participants from four large grocery retailers.
FINDINGS : Optimising profitability and cost reduction goals are the identified internal drivers,
whereas the main external driver was to reduce the organisations’ environmental impact. A
lack of information systems – such as enterprise resource planning systems or warehouse
management system software – and infrastructure were revealed as the main internal barriers
for organisations’ RL practices, whereas supplier non-compliance and transportation
inefficiencies were the main external barriers exposed.
MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS : In order to optimise the efficiency of the reverse flow, managers are
recommended to devote more capital to RL infrastructure, develop policies to manage supplier
behaviour, focus on RL as a revenue generating stream as well as implement information
systems to manage the entire reverse flow.
CONCLUSION : All participating grocery retailers follow similar RL processes. Growth in RL
practices as well as infrastructure to perform those practices is a future priority for all the
reviewed grocery retailers. RL is no longer only a key cost driver, but also provides organisations
with many additional opportunities.