Feb 10, 2021
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Retailers face returns "time bomb " as lockdown store closures delay process - report

Feb 10, 2021

Retailers face a returns deluge when physical shops reopen with new research showing that shoppers in Britain are sitting on a potential £2.4 billion worth of unreturned goods bought online.

Store closures mean shoppers can't return online orders in person - Photo: Public domain

The research was based on a survey of 2,000 people and comes from locker network operator InPost, which said the total figure adds up to the equivalent of £165 per person with an average of three items per shopper waiting to go back.

Many retailers have extended their returns windows when stores are closed and 51% of UK shoppers said they’ve “hoarded more unwanted shopping over the course of the January lockdown, than ever before”. That’s because they’ve found making returns has been significantly harder” in the restricted environment.

We know that previously, returning items in-store was a popular option and often saw consumers buying extra items when they were there. But with that option off the table, 57% of online shoppers say returning items bought online “is time-consuming and a hassle given lockdown restrictions, and 45% say retailers need to make returning goods easier in the current circumstances”.

E-shoppers also said that social distancing when returning items remains a concern. Over half (54%) said they’re concerned about coming into contact with other people at a Post Office, parcel drop-off shop or when in a store to return goods, and 62% say retailers need to have a contact-free returns option. 

The pent-up returns are also denting current spending as 46% of people said they’re more cautious about spending while awaiting a refund. That’s particularly the case when they’ve managed to return items but refunds are slow in coming.

Over a quarter (29%) of survey respondents said retailers should issue refunds for returned goods more quickly during the current restrictions. 

But on the upside, while consumers will be making many returns once restrictions are eased, around a fifth of people expect their spending to increase again at that point.

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