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Survey: Consumers want flexibility for holiday returns

supply chain workers
Holiday shoppers want extended return windows.

A new survey reveals that holiday shoppers have high expectations for returns, despite ongoing supply chain issues.

According to the 2021 Consumer Holiday Shopping & Returns Behavior from returns management technology vendor GoTRG, over 80% of surveyed consumers think that retailers need to extend their returns windows (i.e. 120 days instead of

90 days) over the holidays to give consumers or gift recipients more time to return items.

More than half (55%) of respondents say they prefer to return purchases online/ or by mail. When asked what the biggest hassle is when trying to make holiday returns, nearly 50% of respondents said big crowds/long lines at stores. Additionally, 56% of respondents said that a store’s returns policy, or lack thereof, would deter them from purchasing a product.

Furthermore, 61% of respondents said they would not be more patient this year if it takes a longer time for a retailer to refund their holiday return, despite continuing supply chain challenges. The survey also found that 45% of respondents said that given supply chain issues, they are planning on buying fewer physical/traditional gifts this holiday season, with over 50% of those saying that gift cards would be their gift of choice.

Nearly 70% of respondents plan to buy fewer high-ticket items (i.e., electronics) this holiday season compared to other years. And nearly 75% of respondents say they plan to (or have) shopped earlier for holiday presents. However, more than 70% of respondents say that they won’t use

alternative payment methods, such as buy now, pay later (BNPL) this holiday season to finance certain gifts.

The survey also examined the attitudes of Gen Z consumers toward holiday shopping. Notable findings include:

  • 85% of Gen Z respondents say that they are going to shop earlier for holiday presents this year.
  • 85% of Gen Z respondents said that they think retailers should extend their returns online/by mail, although 31% said they find costs associated with shipping one of the biggest hassles when trying to make a return.
  • 70% of Gen Z respondents said they would consider buying second-hand/refurbished goods as gifts with retailers potentially facing out-of-stocks due to supply chain issues.

Another recent survey shows that retailers are lagging in their return services, even as they expect a good number of customers to return holiday gifts. According to the “2021 Holiday Returns Insight” survey from data-driven technology-enabled services company Inmar Intelligence, 39% of respondents said they expect a return rate of 10% or less when asked to estimate their expected return rate (units returned versus units purchased) for the upcoming holiday season. Another 30% expect their return rate to be in the range of 11%-20%, while 31% expect returns to exceed 20%.

Fewer than six in 10 respondents (58%) accept online purchase returns in-store or offer instant credit for returns. Fewer than half (47%) of respondents provide in-store offers or coupons for returns. When a consumer does return an item, only 66% of respondents provide customers with at least one or two updates on their return status.

goTRG conducted a survey of over 1,000 respondents across various age groups in the U.S. via Survey Monkey in November 2021 to assess consumer behaviors on shopping and returns leading into the 2021 holiday season.

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