To counter excessive returns, retailers tighten policies

Online retailers are tightening their returns policies as a rise in shoppers see more items ordered than they expect to keep.

According to data from Barclaycard, 41 percent of retailers say too many customers over-order items knowing they will return the majority. 31 percent claim shoppers have worn items before being returned. 26 percent of retailers have seen an increase in returns over the past two years, Barclaycard findings reveal.

Consumers are feeling the impact of retailers becoming stricter with 14 percent saying they have been penalised by a retailer for their returns behaviour, from warning emails to account deactivations. Penalties have also been incurred for returning too many items, sending back purchases that have been used, returning goods without the right packaging or missing the returns deadline.

Free returns are the ‘new normal’

A fifth of shoppers say they will only shop at retailers that offer free returns. Flexible returns policies have become the norm with half all consumers saying retailer policy influences where choose to shop.

Despite this expectation, an increased awareness of sustainability issues is leading some consumers to move towards a more mindful approach to the amount they are buying and returning. Some 46 percent are concerned about the environmental impact of over-ordering and returning goods, with 11 percent having actively reduced the amount they order and return because of this.

Anita Liu Harvey, director of strategy, Barclaycard, said: “The volume of goods being returned continues to rise and consumers have come to expect free returns as standard – otherwise they will shop elsewhere. As a result, we are seeing retailers implementing stricter returns policies to try to clamp down on serial returners and reduce the impact that returns are having on their business.

“These more stringent policies have begun to affect consumers, with some retailers starting to send warning emails to customers about accounts being deactivated, should unusual or suspicious behaviour continue. On the flip side, it does seem shoppers are becoming more mindful about the purchases they make and the impact their returns could have on the environment.”

Photo credit: TermsFeed, Return & Refund Policy Vimeo still


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