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Apparel & Footwear Account for 46% of Recent Returns, According to New Research

Two recent reports from retail tech company Narvar show the changing expectations from consumers regarding returns.

The reports, which include “The State of Returns: The End of One-Size-Fits-All Returns,” and the “2022 Returns Policy Benchmark Report,” both underpin the growing importance and costly nature of returns.

In the state of returns report, the authors note that the value of all the merchandise returned to retailers last year totaled $761 billion, which reflected a 78% increase as compared to 2020.

Among some of the findings in the reports, Narvar discovered that 26% of shoppers surveyed said they had returned more than four items in the last six months, with apparel and footwear accounting for 46% of recent returns.

Poor fit remains the top reason for returns, according to the tech company. For the sixth year in a row, “fit and size” was survey respondents’ top reason for returns (45%), among both first-time shoppers (22%) and loyalists (78%).

The company also found that consumers are increasingly adopting third-party drop-off locations with 37% of shoppers surveyed returned their most recent online purchase by dropping it off at a third-party location (e.g., a UPS store). Third-party drop-off adoption has grown steadily for four years now, from 11% in 2019 to 19% in 2022, reflecting shopper demand for a wider range of convenient return methods.

What’s more, roughly 25% of shoppers are willing to pay for added convenience such as scheduled home pickup when returning items, but less than half of retailers currently charge any kind of return shipping or restocking fee.

“Our research shows that shoppers are undoubtedly benefiting from retailers’ generous return policies,” said Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar, in a statement. “Return windows are getting longer, refunds are happening faster, and technology is making returns easier than ever before—boosting customer satisfaction. There is a significant opportunity here for retailers to increase loyalty and retain revenue by offering differentiated and personalized return policies that meet different customers’ needs.”

This follow’s the National Retail Federation’s yearly returns survey with data science company Appriss Retail, which found for every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $166 million in returns. The survey, which came out earlier this year, also found that for every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, retailers lose $10.30 to return fraud.

NRF found that the categories with the highest return rates were similar to 2020 metrics: auto parts (19.4%), apparel (12.2%) and home improvement and housewares (tied at 11.5%).

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