TORONTO -- One of Canada's biggest shopping centre operators is teaming up with ReturnBear, a service that allows shoppers to return items from multiple retailers.

Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. said Wednesday the service will give Canadian consumers the ability to return goods from a number of different retailers at a single drop-off location at one of its malls or by shipping items in a single box to a ReturnBear processing centre.

The commercial real estate company, which owns some of Canada's biggest shopping centres including Toronto's Eaton Centre and Ottawa's Rideau Centre, said the service is poised to be the first of its kind in Canada.

Cadillac Fairview said its partnering with ReturnBear in an effort to "drive innovation in client experience" and introduce new services for retailers as they expand their sales channels during the pandemic.

The service will help alleviate the costs associated with returns for retailers, Sal Iacono, executive vice-president of operations for Cadillac Fairview, said in a statement.

ReturnBear will help "bridge the physical and digital worlds" to make returns more convenient for shoppers and the overall customer experience better, he added.

Luke Chamberlin, general manager at ReturnBear, said the service will ease the pressure of product returns for retailers and direct-to-consumer brands while improving their reverse logistics operations.

The service has already launched with a mail-in option that allows customers to combine returns from participating retailers into a single shipment.

Returns are batch-processed by ReturnBear on behalf of retailers at a lower cost than their existing practices, ReturnBear and Cadillac Fairview said in a press release.

Later this year, ReturnBear will launch drop-off locations at Cadillac Fairview shopping centres, eliminating the need for customers to pack and ship returns and providing quicker refunds, they said.

Consolidating returns also reduces the environmental footprint of individual shipments and improves the sustainability of e-commerce, the companies said.

Jose Ribau, executive vice-president of digital and innovation at Cadillac Fairview, said the service will help make going to a shopping centre feel "as convenient and seamless as the online world."

Cadillac Fairview has extended the service to all retailers rather than just those with brick-and-mortar locations at its malls, he said.

It's part of an effort to help retailers manage returns but also potentially direct traffic to its properties if consumers return goods to a ReturnBear kiosk in one of its malls, Ribau said.

"Our long term plan is we don't want to just be seen as a real estate company," he said. "We want to be seen as supporting retailers in Canada and making sure that industry survives.

"If we only worry about those that are paying us rent, I think that's short lived," Ribau said. "We want to try and be supportive of the mom-and-pop shop who sets up a website."

He added: "If they're super successful they might even end up needing a store. So it's playing a bit of along game."