UPS: The 2020 holiday season to break return records

A holiday season that saw record-setting online sales is also expected to see all-time highs in online returns.

UPS estimates there was a 23% increase in returns volume the week of Jan. 4, 2021 compared to the same week a year earlier, marking the eighth year in a row with a record increase. However, for the first time, UPS expects that holiday gift return packages were evenly distributed throughout the week (Jan. 4-8).

Specifically, the week of Jan. 4, UPS anticipates that 1.75 million returns were entered into its system each day, for a record-setting total of 8.75 million return packages. According to UPS, the acceleration of e-commerce adoption primarily drove the altered pattern, with full-year 2020 results shattering expectations.

The 2019-2020 holiday season was the first year UPS experienced multiple high-volume returns weeks. The largest week occurred prior to Christmas, with 1.6 million returns processed each day. The largest-ever single returns day – a 24-hour period of returns entering the UPS system – was January 2, 2020, with 1.9 million returns packages.

In addition, according to a consumer survey conducted by UPS on-demand fulfillment subsidiary Ware2Go, 88% of recipients expected to make holiday gift returns, with 54% expecting to complete returns within two weeks of the holidays. Sixty-one percent of respondents said a retailer’s return policy is very important to their purchase decision. Forty-seven percent prefer to make in-store returns, while 35% prefer mail-in returns.

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