Retailers rethink returns policies due to serial returners - report

As online retail expands fast, the number of returns is growing even faster and a new report from Barclaycard shows that 26% of retailers have seen returns volumes rising in the past two years. That has led 20% of retailers to take action to make their returns policies stricter in the past year with another 19% planning to do so soon.


Many shoppers are over-ordering knowing that they'll send items back

The study also showed that 14% of shoppers say that they've been penalised by retailers over returns issues, with actions having included warning emails and deactivated accounts.

But the massive growth of returns isn’t only a concern for retailers with 46% of UK consumers worried about the environmental impact of over-ordering and returning goods. That has led 11% to actively cut the amount they order and return.

Of the businesses that have tightened up returns policies, 41% cite over-ordering by customers who know they’ll return most of what they’ve ordered. And a worrying 31% said shoppers are using items and then returning them.

But while stricter policies are kicking in, the number of ‘serial returners’ is on the rise.

The study showed that Millennials are more than twice as likely as others to fall foul of stricter returns small print. It said that in the 25 to 34 age group, between 21% and 25% of consumers have been penalised for different issues such as returning too many goods, returning used products, returning items without the right packaging or labels, and returning their orders after the deadline. For all age groups as a whole, those percentages range from only 8% up to 11%.

But consumers still seem ready to order goods they know they will return, 29% admitting that they do so, a figure that rises to 48% for 25 to 34-year-olds.

That's a reflection of the high expectations of liberal returns policies and it's also no surprise that free returns are seen as the norm, with 18% of shoppers saying they'll only shop at retailers that offer them. Overall, the choice of where to shop for 49% of shoppers is affected by returns policies, showing how much of a risk it can be for retailers to become too strict about returns.

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