52% of Retailers Relax Return Policies For Holiday Season

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.”

Utimate Guide To Returning Gifts

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, it’s easy to focus on the gift you are about to give and receive, but you may want to begin thinking about the gifts you will receive and then return.

It happens every year: you get a gift from a friend or family member that you just don’t need or want. It’s important to remember the following tips for gift returning.

  1. Keep receipts. If you are looking to return something, having a receipt makes everything easier. Some stores won’t even consider letting you return something without  a receipt, so make sure you are utilizing gift receipts this holiday season. If you are giving gifts, make sure to request a gift receipt when you are checking out at the store and include it with the gift. If you are receiving a gift, you may feel uncomfortable asking for a gift receipt. Because gift receipts can be so helpful, though, you might want to drop a few hints to your gift-giver, like, “Oh I have a sweater just like this that I just bought.” Or, “I’m allergic to this kind of fabric!” Just be careful: you don’t want to have them get offended or offer to take the gift back themselves.
  2. Keep proofs of purchase and clothing tag intact. When a proof of purchase is damage or when the tags on clothing are removed, you may seriously reduce your chances of returning an item. In the case of clothing, retailers have become more wary of people buying clothes, wearing them and then returning them, so they may not want to give you a return on an item without tags.
  3. Be prepared. It’s important to know what a store’s policy is on returns before you go into the store. Most larger stores print return policies on their receipts, and most have their policies accessible on their websites. If you don’t like the policy or feel like you might qualify for an exception to the policy, it can be worth it to make your argument to a sales clerk or manager.
  4. Don’t become a serial returner. If you return too many items, many stores have policies that can block you from making more returns. This is to prevent people from committing fraud against the store, so be careful if you are returning a lot of items to a particular store or chain.
  5. Beware of restocking fees. Many items, especially computer software and hardware and musical instruments have restocking fees. If you return the item, a store may hit with you with up to 25% of the cost of the item so that it can be restocked.
  6. Never give in. Though policies may be written down, it is often possible to have sales clerks or managers issue an exception to a policy, either to be nice or because they are not fully aware of the store’s policies. If you think you have a legitimate claim to return an item, offering your side of the story never hurt any one. Many stores want to keep their customers happy and may become flexible if you are polite and present your argument effectively. If you are unable to return an item, it may be possible to get store credit as a compromise.

Long lines as people try to return gifts