Online shopping is easy and convenient, and in the middle of the pandemic, it let many of us buy essentials without breaking quarantine regulations. In fact, during 2020, e-commerce sales rose 43% from the previous year.
However, as more and more purchases were made, that meant an increase in returns, a huge hassle for retailers considering supply chain issues and higher shipping costs. In 2021, the online return rate increased to 20.8%.
As the holidays come around, more gifts purchased also equals more returns. 18% of merchandise sold is expected to be returned this holiday season. More and more businesses are losing their ability to sustain their free return policies, as rising costs from inflation impact their margins.
Many major retailers are changing their policies in order to deter customers from overspending and therefore making returns. Overspending online has become a problem as many customers don’t know the ins-and-outs of what happens when a garment is returned, a lengthy and expensive process.
The returns process includes validating, inspecting and replacing items. It’s a process that can cost as much as $7 per item on top of shipping costs. For the items that can’t be restocked, especially at fast-fashion retailers with a short trend cycle, many garments end up in landfills, as 10% of returned items can’t be resold.
Gap, Old Navy and J. Crew have shortened their return windows to only a single month, while stores like Anthropologie and LL Bean are charging $6 for mailed returns in an effort to lower the amount of merchandise returned.
Most of the time, you can avoid paying for returns if you return products in-store, because most return charges are for mailed merchandise. Furthermore, you can avoid having to make returns by giving gift cards this holiday season. Instead of guessing your friend’s dress size this holiday season, give them a gift card instead. It’ll help cut back on having to make a return because they don’t like, or can't fit, into what you got them. Many cash back credit cards even give you the ability to redeem rewards for gift-cards.
Overall, it’s important to find a return policy that works with you. Shopping in person can help limit returns as well. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting, not just what it looked like online.