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‘Serial returners’ slow retail growth


A rise in the number of ‘serial returners’ has been labelled a detrimental factor for UK retailers.

Recently released research from Barclaycard found that as much as 30% of UK customers deliberately order more than they want before utilising increasingly easy, and often free, return options.

“Today’s time-pressed shopper expects to the process to be fast, easy and free – and that applies to both buying goods as well as returning them,” said Sharon Manikon, Director of Customer Solutions at Barclaycard Global Payment Acceptance. “Faced with more choice than ever before, alongside a range of different clothing and shoe sizes, it’s hardly surprising that this new breed of online shopper – the serial returner – is starting to emerge.”

The figures suggest that 60% of retailers are negatively affected by increasing numbers of customers returning unwanted items. Businesses that only operate online are particularly vulnerable, with 30% admitting that managing returns impacts their profit margins.

Reacting to the rise of serial returners, a fifth of businesses have increased their prices to cover their losses. Meanwhile 22% of brick and mortar retailers have simply chosen not to sell online due to concerns about the cost of deliveries and returns.

Customers also responded, with 58% of shoppers claiming a retailer’s returns policy impacts their decision on whether or not to buy online and 47% saying they would not order an item at all if they had to pay to return it.

“Online spending will continue to rise and the need to keep pace with customer demands presents a dilemma for businesses needing to protect their bottom line,” Manikon continued. “Fortunately there is a light at the end of the tunnel with many ways retailers can streamline the returns process. From developing universal sizing to offering virtual dressing rooms, the key for today’s businesses is to determine which innovations work best for them – while ensuring they don’t lose out to their more-savvy competition.”

Published on Wednesday 18 May by Philip Gallagher

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