£2.5bn of unwanted gifts to be taken back this month, consumers want easier process

UK retailers face a post-Christmas returns nightmare and could be landed with up to £2.5 billion of unwanted gifts being taken back this month. January 2, dubbed Takeback Tuesday, will be one of the heaviest returns days. 

Unwanted fashion gifts are more likely to be returned than any other items

But just as returns flood in, consumers are expecting a more seamless and user-friendly process than ever before for taking back their unwanted products.

That’s all according to two new reports that show retailers can’t draw a line under the Christmas shopping season until much later this month, with online shopping partly to blame.

Items bought online can be returned for a full refund within 14 days under standard distance selling regulations. But many retailers typically extend that period pre-Christmas in order to spur sales of items that might be bought earlier in December but not given to the recipient until Christmas Day.

That means pre-Christmas purchases could be returned as late as the end of this month while clearance sale buys might not be taken back until February.


Parcels carrier Royal Mail said that Takeback Tuesday is likely to see double the number of returns compared to an average day in December as shoppers go back to work after the Christmas holiday and seek to monetise their unwanted items.

There’s debate over which categories are most likely to be returned. Logistics consultancy LCP, which came up with the £2.5 billion returns figure, said that footwear is the category with the highest returns rate (28%), followed by clothing (20%) and homewares (15%). But Royal mail said 75% of customers who buy women’s clothing return clothing items, followed by footwear (38%) and electrical goods (37%).

Regardless of the category, it’s clear that fashion is a key focus for returns and the work needed to get these items back onto store shelves means that a typical online order can cost between £2 and £3 more to process than items purchased in physical stores, LCP said.

The consultancy's director of retail, Stuart Higgins, said that the flood of returns this month will also put extra pressure on retailers’ physical stores as one-third of returns will be processed through those stores.


Based on its survey of 1,320 online shoppers, Royal Mail said that the average ‘returner’ in the UK sends back an online purchase every month with dresses (37%) being the top returned women’s item. That’s followed by crop tops/T-shirts (22%) and trousers/jeans (20%). Male shoppers return trousers/jeans the most (28%), followed by shirts (23%) and coats/jackets (20%).

Young shoppers (aged 18-34) are most likely to take an item back and the main reason for returning clothes is because an item does not fit (42%). 

Wrong size (32%), the item not being suitable (20%) and not what was expected (20%) are also popular reasons to return clothes, and given that fashion was a major Christmas gift category, wrong sizes and unsuitable styles are likely to be even more of an issue at the moment than during the rest of the year. 


Meanwhile, Royal Mail said that there’s now an expectation of ease and efficiency when it comes to online order returns. Some 81% of consumers say they prefer returns labels to be included with purchases. Almost 90% would consider themselves likely to shop with a retailer again if re-sealable packaging was provided. 

Speed and guidance are also key and 96% of shoppers believe it’s important to get notified of a refund when their item is returned, while 75% consider it important to have guidance about which returns label to use and to get refunded quickly. Tracking is also important and 73% want to be able to track the status of their item. 

Ease of return affects future shopping behaviour and 60% of shoppers would be less likely to shop with a retailer again following a difficult returns experience.

Most consumers expect free returns to be offered, with Royal mail saying 47% of shoppers would be unlikely to patronise a retailer again if it charged for returns. Further to this, three in five shoppers expect to receive free returns regardless of the amount spent. Where this isn’t offered, a third would switch to a different retailer with more generous returns policies.

Copyright © 2018 FashionNetwork.com All rights reserved.

Fashion - MiscellaneousLuxury - MiscellaneousBeauty - MiscellaneousLifestyle - MiscellaneousRetail