An astonishing $90 billion in goods from the 2017 holiday season will be returned or exchanged, according to Optoro.
On average, 25% of all returns annually occur during the holidays. All told, Americans return roughly $380 billion in merchandise each year.
Roughly 40% of consumers who returned gifts last year did so the day after Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But the returns season is certainly not over. Some 50% of consumers waited to return holiday gifts in January last year, Optoro reports. This year, consumers are expected to return everything from online clothing to cell phones and tablets until late January.
Some returns don’t make it back to stores shelves and are not resold. Returns in the United States amass 5 billion pounds of landfill waste a year, Oporto reports. The Washington, D.C.-based technology company helps retailers and brands manage, process, and resell returned and excess inventory.
Return rate much higher for online items
About 20% to 30% of items purchased online are returned, giving them a return rate that is about three times higher than brick-and-mortar stores. Most people physically return items they bought online back to the retailer they purchased them from.
Consumers favor stores with flexible return policy
And returns are not necessarily sour grapes for merchants. Many retailers now view having a flexible return policy as a competitive edge. Some 71% of consumers say that a positive return experience greatly encourages them to shop at a store again, Optoro reports. Fifty-four percent of consumers make an additional purchase when returning an item to a store.
Interestingly in the past year, 46% of shoppers abandoned an online shopping cart because the retailer didn’t offer free shipping on returns.
If you are returning holiday gifts there is good news. Some 6 in 10 consumers say they include a gift receipt some or most of the time when they give a Christmas gift, based on surveys by the National Retail Federation. So, if you got another pair of leather gloves or a trove of watches not on your wish list, don’t have a meltdown.
Some tips to consider before beginning your post-holiday return quest:
Check the Policy
Frequently, items bought on sale or during a promotion have a special return policy. Before heading to the store or the post office to send back returns, check the return policy and see if there’s a special return window or requirements. Optoro says 52% of consumers check the policy before making a purchase.
Take your ID
Many retailers may ask for your identification, so be sure to carry it with you in case they do. A government-issued ID often works the best, so keep that in mind.
Keep Returns in Good Shape
When returning items, do your best to keep items and packaging in good condition. That doesn’t just mean just leaving the tags on. The better shape the item is in, and the sooner it gets back to the retailer, the quicker you will likely get a refund.
Check out the options
If a store has brick-and-mortar locations, check out the retailer to see if you can walk-in to return the item. The research can potentially help you avoid shipping fees and repacking.
When to Return Gifts?
Every retailer has a different policy for the time frame items can be returned. The best time to take a gift back is in January when foot traffic is lower and potentially new deals are being offered.
To re-gift or not to re-gift?
An American Express survey found that 75% of Americans think it’s socially acceptable to re-gift items. The most popular items to re-gift are kitchenware, sweaters, and electronics.
Buy returns, save money and help the environment
Consumers can get great deals by buying returned and excess items. Websites such as blinq.com sell returned items at a big discount, sometimes as much as 50% off. Blinq sells goods from major name brands, including Apple, Dell, Bose, Hunter boots, Lenovo, Adidas, Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole, and Levi’s to name a few. The items are sold in sealed packaging and checked for quality.