It Looks Like the Holiday ‘Returns’ Season is Going to Be Big

NEW YORK—What would the holidays be without returns? Indeed, UPS is anticipating a surge of returns this year and leading into the New Year, according to a recent report by eMarketer. UPS expects 1.6 million packages to be returned daily the week of Dec. 16 leading into Christmas. And a record-breaking 1.9 million returns are expected to fill the distribution channel on the peak return day, Jan. 2. This would be a 26 increase over the year-ago period.

“As ecommerce retailers continue to provide more return-friendly policies, shoppers are buying and returning more online than ever before,” Andrew Lipsman, an eMarketer principal analyst, said in the report. “While the post-Christmas frenzy is to be expected, the fact that Hanukkah falls so late in December this year means that returns will be extra-concentrated in late December and early January.”

UPS polled more than 17,000 digital buyers worldwide between December 2018 and January 2019, all of whom made at least two online orders that required delivery in the three months prior to the survey. More than a third (36 percent) of respondents returned an item in the three months before the study.

Returns can happen for a variety of reasons and, for the most part, there isn't one clear indicator of why consumers return items. Three in 10 digital buyers worldwide ages 17 and older said they returned a digitally purchased item because it was either faulty or damaged. Nearly as many respondents said the items were not as described (27 percent) or poor quality (27 percent). And one in five respondents said they ordered more than one of an item likely to try and get the right fit.

By and large, returns shape consumers' perceptions of a retailer. A poorly executed returns policy can result in lost sales and lost customers, according to eMarketer’s report.

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