More than half (52 percent) of retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation (NRF) said their return policies for the holiday season will be more lenient than for the rest of the year. Common changes may include retailers extending the amount of time for returns to be made, and also being more flexible to customers without a receipt.
"In a year where practicality is paramount, many retailers are making return policies more flexible for customers who need to bring back duplicate or unwanted gifts after the holidays," said NRF VP of loss prevention, Joe LaRocca. "Retailers seem to be finding a balance between providing good customer service to shoppers, while preventing criminals from taking advantage of lenient policies."
Retailers also said that returns as a percentage of sales are on the rise. This year, return rates are estimated to reach 8.7 percent of sales, up from 7.3 percent one year ago. The amount of merchandise returned to stores this year is estimated to reach $219.1 billion, with $47.1 billion of those returns coming from holiday purchases.
"Consumers experiencing a bit of buyer's remorse as a result of the economy may be returning unworn and unused merchandise to stores," said LaRocca. "While retailers look at returns as a way to provide good customer service, an increased rate of returns is yet another challenge for retailers during a tough economic climate."
Retailers know the decision to make return policies more lenient may come at a cost. According to the survey, return fraud continues to plague the industry and will cost retailers an estimated $3.54 billion this holiday season, down slightly from $3.6 billion last year. Retailers will lose $11.8 billion to return fraud in 2008. However, retailers seem to be tackling the problem, as return fraud is expected to decrease to 7.5 percent of holiday returns from 8.9 percent last year.
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