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Christmas returns set to peak today

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Returns of unwanted Christmas gifts will peak today, the Royal Mail has predicted.

The delivery company has dubbed the day ‘Take-back Tuesday’ and forecasts, based on analysis of its own data, that the number of returns posted today will be 50% higher today than on an average day in December.

It says that last January, parcels sent back through its Tracked Returns service were higher than in any other month of 2016.

Its own previous research suggests that easy returns are a key part of the online shopping experienced. Some 38% of online shoppers said a free returns policy would be likely to mean they bought online more often, according to its Delivery Matters – Returns Special report.

The items most likely to be returns include clothing and footwear. Some 30% of online shoppers who were questioned said they returned women’s clothes, 17% men’s clothes, 16% footwear and 7% children’s clothes.

The day is likely to weigh on online retailers. Last year a study from Barclaycard found that 31% of 308 online retailers questioned said that managing returns had an impact on their profit. But, in line with Royal Mail’s research, Barclaycard found in its questioning of consumers that a retailer’s online returns policy is an important part of the decision to buy online in the first place: 58% said a retailer’s returns policy played a part in their decision to make a purchase online, and almost half (47%) of these would not order an item if they had to fund the cost of sending it back from their own pocket.

That means, said Barclaycard, that web-based retailers are caught between trying to attract customers and remaining competitive while also ensuring they protect their bottom line.

A significant proportion (57%) of the 308 retailers questioned say that dealing with returns has a negative impact on the day-to-day running of their business and means they need to find another way to recover the cost. Thus a third (33%) of online retailers offer free returns but charge for delivery, while one in five (20%) increase the price of items to cover the cost of returns.

More than a fifth (22%) of bricks and mortar retailers said they chose not to sell online because they are concerned about being able to afford the costs of managing the delivery and returns process. Serial returners said they would send back fewer purchases if businesses were to standardise clothing and shoe sizes (as cited by 38% of shoppers), which can vary between and even within retailers.

One in five (18%) said a better in-store experience, such as shortened queues for clothing store fitting rooms so they can try on sizes without the wait, would also reduce the number of returns they make.

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