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Post-Christmas returns cause problems for online retailers

01 February 2013 - 09:28 by Simon Crisp

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A lot of consumers enjoy the convenience of shopping for clothing and footwear via safe shopping online, but if you buy something that does not fit well, it is generally necessary to return it for an exchange or refund.

Big retailers are getting much better at handling returns and it has got to the point that some consumers buy two of the same item in different sizes, so that they can keep the one that fits and ditch the one that does not.

This seems sensible, but as BBC News reports, it can actually be a bit of a problem for e-commerce retailers, particularly in the post-Christmas period when returns grow significantly.

One shoe retailer covered in the report said that a third of all footwear purchased from its e-commerce outlet was now being sent back by customers. This is much higher than the rate seen on the high street, presumably because consumers can actually try on shoes before they commit to a sale.

Analysts point out that some retailers see higher rates of returns than others, but occasionally, up to 50 per cent of all items purchased via safe shopping online can end up back in the warehouse.

Part of the reason that the post-Christmas period is so busy for returns is that many consumers may have over-indulged during the holidays and made online purchases that they later regretted.

Being able to return an unwanted item once you have a clear head and realise that you either cannot afford it or do not need it, is definitely good for customers, but piles on costs for retailers.

It seems unlikely that consumers will change their habits now that e-commerce sites are a popular platform for clothing and footwear shopping, so retailers will have to adjust and adapt to a world in which returns are the norm.