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Return to sender: today the busiest day for returns following record Black Friday and Cyber Monday

By Paul Skeldon December 3, 2018 - 10:29 am

Returns are expected to hit a high today, Monday 3 December, as online shoppers choose to send back unwanted purchases made over the ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales weekend as retailers are hit by a £2.4bn returns hangover.

According to CollectPlus, a UK-based independent store-based delivery and returns service, today – dubbed Make up your mind Monday – sees the biggest peak in returns as shoppers decide which of the online bargains purchased during this year’s ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales they will keep and which they will send back.

Comparing returns volumes over the cyber weekend in 2017, CollectPlus reported an 12% increase in parcel return volumes in the days following the key shopping dates, with Monday 4 December 2017 seeing the greatest number of returns dropped in store.

This year, as online sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday continued to soar, CollectPlus is estimating Monday 3 December will prove to be the day that the most purchases are returned after shoppers have a change of heart.

“Black Friday is increasingly an online event so many savvy shoppers head to their favourite retailers’ websites to take advantage of the phenomenal deals up for grabs not only on Black Friday, but over the entire Cyber Weekend. We expect to see a peak in unwanted items being returned on the Tuesday straight after, or ‘Choose-day’, when people decide whether to ‘choose or lose’ their new purchases. We’ve seen retailers work tirelessly across the entire supply chain to plan effectively for the fulfilment of orders made on and around Black Friday. With the high volume of items being sent back it’s important that they have a robust strategy in place to deal with returns in the same way. Shoppers expect to be quickly and easily reimbursed for online shopping and any delays in the process can lead to delays in repurchase.”
– Neil Ashworth, CEO, CollectPlus

This is all part of a £2.4bn returns hangover, according to data from returns platform ReBOUND. ‘Make Up Your Mind Monday’  is expected to be the most returns-heavy day of 2018, with 79% more returns registered than a typical Monday. A high rate of returns continues over peak and well into January, which has 85% more returns than the average month of the year.

While under normal circumstances the majority of returns costs are recouped as stock is resold, the impact of returns will hit retailers particularly hard over peak as supply chains suffer from severe delays. With many businesses focused on selling, returned peak items are often only processed in January and so are resold at discounted prices in January sales.

According to ReBOUND, decreasing resale value and the cost of processing returns will hit fashion retailers particularly hard, as costs often build from cleaning, retagging and reselling stock in January sales. The total impact on margins of online fashion returns Black Friday until Christmas is predicted to reach as high as £1.6bn – with the impact of returns from Black Friday Weekend alone set to be as high as £250m.

“The sheer volume of sales over peak results in an enormous number of returns. It’s no coincidence that Make Up Your Mind Monday falls just a week after Black Friday, but this spike in returns continues throughout December. At such a busy time, many retailers only turn their attention to processing returns in January, and this has severe consequences for their margins. Ultimately this problem comes down to tracking, as retailers often aren’t aware of the value of stock being returned to them until they begin opening packages in a warehouse.”
– Graham Best, CEO, ReBOUND

This year’s Cyber weekend in the UK has been a record-breaker. According to ecommerce website hosting company UKFast, there was 30% more traffic to its ecommerce sites than last Black Friday, with it suggesting that this is driven by shoppers stepping away from the mayhem of the high street and going for online bargains instead – with many opting to use their mobile to get those early bargains.

This is backed up by figures from Salmon, a Wunderman Company, which suggests that 85% of traffic between midnight and 9am was from mobile devices, with 15% from desktop devices. More than three quarters (76%) of transactions were made via mobile and 24% from desktop.

Salmon’s research hub also went on to find that between midnight and midday on Black Friday itself saw 77% of traffic and 64% of transactions from mobile, with the balance from desktop.

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