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Retailers dismiss higher returns predictions

Fashion retailers have seen little evidence so far for claims that UK shoppers are returning more clothes from online sales.

The Royal Mail’s annual Delivery Matters report predicted that returns would increase by 80% over an average December day on Wednesday 2 January – what it called “Takeback Wednesday”. However, retailers have indicated they have not experienced an increase in returns so far. 

The managing director of one brand told Drapers last week: “[In the week of 24-28 Dec], we saw our retail returns decline by 9% compared with the year before. Online, we saw returns drop by 52%. 

“It feels like there have been far fewer so far this year. However, this will definitely be down to the Sales starting a day later in the week. We may see this counter balance, of course.” 

The operations director of one lifestyle retailer said returns had “come in as expected for this year”. 

Meanwhile, the chair of one mainstream retailer said they had also seen no change in returns on last year: “Our customers are regular customers, so there’s been no discernible change in their pattern – we had really good trade over Christmas. 

“As for returns Wednesday, it is just people taking their stuff back but choosing to do it after new year. You couldn’t get near the average post office before Christmas, so the backlog has built up.” 

However, Steve Gershik, CMO of product information management consultancy InRiver, said the rate of online returns can be a problem, because more than one-fifth of shoppers have bought products online that did not meet their expectations.

“Understanding the reasons why consumers send products back will enable ecommerce businesses to focus on providing a better experience and reducing these occurrences,” he explains. “Shoppers need to know exactly what they are purchasing. It is up to retailers to deliver a product that is consistent with expectations. Ultimately, if customers feel let down by a retailer, they’ll go elsewhere in the future.” 

The previously quoted mainstream brand chair added that retailers who toughen up their returns policies too much could lose out: “If you make it harder at the front end then people will purchase less but may return just as much. Returns must be looked at as another cost of bringing sales online. You don’t have an option – the public know they have all the cards, so they will vote with whoever they think is being the fairest.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • What we do not know is what the returns rate of the major players are. I suspect they are embarrassingly high in some cases, you have to factor in the percentage that cannot be resold due to abuse by the buyer.

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