In a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, 52% of retailers say they are relaxing their return policies during the holidays compared to the rest of the year. This number is up 35% from last year.

Additionally, one in ten retailers is loosening its policies compared to last holiday season. This is up from 3.4% last year.

So what does this mean for consumers? Common ways to soften return policies include extending the amount of time for returns to be made and being more accommodating for customers attempting to return or exchange items without a receipt.

More retailers are becoming more lenient on returns this holiday season
More retailers are becoming more lenient on returns this holiday season

Though some retailers reported that they will make their return policies more strict, but this number is smaller than the number of those loosening their policies. The net gain will be a more lenient retail industry this holiday season.

“In a year where practicality is paramount, many retailers are making return policies more flexible for customers who need to bring back duplicate or unwanted gifts after the holidays,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention Joe LaRocca. “Retailers seem to be finding a balance between providing good customer service to shoppers while preventing criminals from taking advantage of lenient policies.”

In yet another sign of the weakening economy, the report also states that returns as a percentage of sales are increasing. Returns are expected to increase to 8.7% of sales, up from 7.3% last year. The amount of merchandise returned is estimated to reach $219.1 billion. Holiday returns accounted for $47.1 billion of that total.

“Consumers experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse as a result of the economy may be returning unworn and unused merchandise to stores,” LaRocca said. “While retailers look at returns as a way to provide good customer service, an increased rate of returns is yet another challenge for retailers during a tough economic climate.”