It’s cost vs. convenience in the battle of returns

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This year, US retail returns volume will reach $627.34 billion, representing 8.5% of all retail sales, according to our forecast. After surging in 2020 and 2021 (due to the pandemic ecommerce boom and stimulus-driven boost in consumer spending), growth normalized last year and will continue to slow through 2024.

Beyond the chart: 2023 will be the year that return policies make or break brand loyalty, as customers seek easy and fast ways to make returns while retailers try to keep the costs down.

Retailers from Gap Inc. to Zara are exploring options like restocking fees and shorter return windows. Meanwhile, big-box stores like Target and Walmart are forgoing fees and instead investing in making the returns process smoother for customers.

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Methodology: Estimates are based on the analysis of survey and traffic data from other research firms, historical consumer adoption trends, and demographic adoption trends.