returnbear toronto

This Toronto company is making it easier to return your online purchases

For all of its conveniences and staggering popularity, online shopping is... not for everyone. Sure, it's for almost everyone, with 82 per cent of Canadians reporting at least one online purchase in 2021, but there are hold-outs.

There are also people who've been so damn frustrated by the process of trying to return a purchase made online that they've fully converted back to IRL consumers for some types of goods.

Shoes, clothes, activewear, bathing suits; it's difficult to gauge by photos alone if these products will fit our bodies and look good. That's why people try this kind of stuff on in stores.

Those who shop for wearable goods online know they're taking a risk — but it always feels mitigated knowing that you can totally return anything that doesn't work out and get your money back.

If only it weren't such a huge hassle to actually return literally anything.

A Toronto-based company founded by the former General Manager of Shopify seeks to alleviate this pain point, and thank. freaking. gosh. 

"The growth of e-commerce has spotlighted one of online retail's biggest problems: returns. More online shopping means more online returns," says Sylvia Ng, CEO of ReturnBear.

"Returns are costly for merchants and a hassle for customers, and up until now there has been no streamlined process to make this easier for Canadians... We are on a mission to make retail returns easy and accessible for everyone."

Founded in October of 2021 and backed by Cadillac Fairview (the massive mall operator) as well as the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, ReturnBear just announced a national expansion of what's billed as "Canada's first end-to-end returns solution."

How it works is simple: Shoppers in Toronto who need to send dud purchases back to where they came from can simply visit a ReturnBear drop off location at, say, The Eaton Centre or Fairview Mall.

No need to fuss around with packing slips, label printing and postage woes... the service takes care of all the annoying, confusing stuff that keeps so many of us from sending back items we really don't want.

"ReturnBear simplifies the end-to-end return experience by streamlining the process for retailers, providing a one-stop solution where shoppers can drop off their returns without printing labels, repacking their products, or having to wait in line at a post office," reads a release from the company.

"ReturnBear's software is integrated into the merchant's website, providing a self-serve experience for customers to initiate returns and exchanges, and choose the drop-off or mail-in option for their return that is most convenient to them.

Shoppers pay nothing for the service. Rather, companies pay ReturnBear to use its infrastructure and logistics expertise. 

The recent expansion brings with it not only "convenient new package-free drop off locations, enhanced product offerings, and new merchant partners," as ReturnBear notes, but new locations at malls across Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and B.C.

"Retail returns are a growing, untapped problem in the Canadian market. As reported in the U.S., retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6 per cent in 2021 versus 10.6 per cent a year ago," said a rep for the company by email to blogTO.

"That adds up to more than $761 billion of merchandise that wind up back at stores and warehouses. With over 18 years of experience in e-commerce, Canadian Sylvia Ng recognized this problem and is now on a mission to solve it."

I'm glad she did, even if it's too late to return all of the many uglier-than-pictured Shein getups gathering dust in the back of my closet. 

Lead photo by

Claudio Schwarz


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