Retailers should prepare for an increase in customer returns from ‘serial returners’ – shoppers who deliberately over-purchase and return unwanted items.
Barclaycard Spend data shows that online spending rocketed 15.1% on Black Friday last year compared with the same time in 2014. It has predicted another wave of online activity this year, with four in 10 consumers who plan to shop on Black Friday saying they will do so online.
According to the study, three in 10 shoppers (30%) class themselves as serial returners and one in five (19%) claim to order multiple versions of the same item to make up their mind at home.
With serial returners likely to take advantage of low prices and impulse buy items before later deciding what to keep, Barclaycard said retailers need to be prepared to manage ‘buy-to-return’ habits this sales season.
It said those that don’t risky losing out financially while also being left with stock they can’t sell as nearly as six in 10 retailers (57%) say that dealing with serial returners has a negative impact on the day-to-day running of their business.
Online retailers are the hardest hit by serial returners, with three in 10 (30%) claiming that managing the returns process has an impact on their profit margin. A fifth (22%) have even introduced a new system to cope with stock they cannot sell.
This is resulting in stockrooms filling with unsellable items, including products which have clearly been used (48% of unfit items returned), are marked (29%) or have parts missing (28%).
However, the majority (89%) of retailers acknowledge that a good returns policy is important to their customers. As a result merchants are stuck between accommodating shoppers’ demands and balancing their bottom line, with almost six in 10 (57%) giving refunds regardless of product condition to maintain a positive relationship with customers.
Sharon Manikon, director of customer solutions at Barclaycard, said: “More than any other time of the year, retailers need to be prepared for high volumes of both purchases and returns during Black Friday.
“While seasonal discounts provide an opportunity to entice customers with reductions and offers, as our research shows, the draw of a bargain is likely to encourage shoppers to impulse-buy in bulk and later return the items they decide not to keep.”
She added for retailers to capitalise on Black Friday and stand out from the competition, retailers need to not only focus on drawing consumers in with seasonal bargains, but also ensure that they have a clear and flexible returns policy.
“Those that balance these competing demands will be able to meet customer expectations without impacting their own bottom line,” she said.