Guest Blog By David Sisco.

Now that the 2012 holiday shopping season has come to a close, it’s time for retailers to focus on the next phase of the holiday customer experience: returns. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to return nearly $63 billion worth of holiday gifts this year – equivalent to nearly a quarter of all the merchandise that is returned to retailers in a typical 12-month period. Some of these returns will happen in store, but thanks to the large growth in e-commerce, many holiday goods will be shipped back to retailers. Many retailers allow consumers to purchase items online and return them in-store as more companies compete in this multichannel world.


This changing market illustrates the need for retailers to take a new look at their practices as they head into the new year. Based on historical data, UPS predicted it would ship more than 520,000 packages back to retailers on January 3 – our busiest day for post-holiday returns in 2013. At UPS, we call it National Returns Day. During the first week in January, we transported more than two million unwanted holiday gifts back to retailers.

While National Returns Day has passed, the need to focus on returns is only beginning. With continued growth in e-commerce, retailers can expect returns volumes to increase as well. Retailers that include a returns label in the package or provide electronic return labels can streamline the process and improve the overall customer experience and opinions consumers have about their brand. How important are returns? According to comScore’s 2012 Online Shopping Customer Experience study, commissioned by UPS, there are several factors that drive purchasing behavior: easy returns, estimated or guaranteed delivery dates, and the availability of free/discounted shipping.

From the research, online shoppers rate the returns process among the lowest areas of satisfaction in their online shopping experience and among the top areas in which they want to see improvements.

  • 63% look at a retailer’s returns policy before making a purchase
  • 48% would shop more often with that retailer if they were to offer a lenient, easy-to-understand returns policy
  • More than 60% want a return label in the box or an easy-to-print return label

As a New Year’s resolution – it’s not too early for retailers to re-evaluate their returns policies and procedures.

David Sisco is director of retail and consumer goods marketing at UPS.


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