Retail returns up 57% and not set to slow down
New data reveals that order returns rose significantly in 2022 as inflation and the cost-of-living began to bite.
Retail returns in the traditional Christmas shopping period were up 57% on the year before, with returns also rising 16% globally. UK order returns were up by a quarter (26%) between Christmas and the new year, compared with 2021.
The data, from parcelLab, reveals that UK and global shoppers’ appetite for flexible returns policies is not slowing down. Of the nearly three million parcels returned to British retailers in 2022, over 350 thousand were sent back between Black Friday and Christmas, and over 50 thousand were sent back between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This comes despite a recent parcelLab study revealing that 25% of top UK retailers are now charging for order returns, up 14% from last year.
The ongoing industrial action within the UK postal sector was also the cause of headaches for UK retailers and shoppers alike: late deliveries between Black Friday and Christmas rose by one third (33%) this year compared to 2021. The increase in late deliveries was not just limited to the festive shopping period, however. Over 14 million UK deliveries arrived late in 2022 compared to just 5.2 million in 2021.
Tobias Buxhoidt, Founder and CEO of parcelLab, commented: “Looking back across the recent Christmas period there has been no letup in terms of consumer demands for a seamless and flexible shopping experience. Customers want speed, choice, and transparent post-purchase processes, which retailers must get right if they are going to navigate the changing demands of today’s economy. Industrial action may lead to delivery delays and inflation may reduce our overall willingness to spend, yet it is up to brands to curate positive experiences that drive the loyalty.
A key aspect of this will come down to keeping shoppers well-informed at every stage of the order and returns process. More than ever, customers want to know when they are going to receive a refund, so implementing technology that provides sufficient tracking and communications is important to maintaining a positive relationship and building trust at this critical stage of the post-purchase journey. What’s more, if brands do make the decision to charge for order returns, customers are likely to only remain loyal if the experience they have is a positive one.