Business & Real Estate

Send it back: Thursday marks ‘National Returns Day’

UPS projects that it will handle 1.3 million return packages to retailers on Thursday, January 5, 2017 – the busiest day in a week with an expected 5.8 million returns.
UPS projects that it will handle 1.3 million return packages to retailers on Thursday, January 5, 2017 – the busiest day in a week with an expected 5.8 million returns. Sacramento Bee file

Consumers have recently experienced Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday in the run-up to Christmas Day.

What better way to follow those holiday shopping binge milestones than with National Returns Day?

National Returns Day is marked on Thursday by Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc. – known by most simply as UPS – and it is a very big deal to the package-delivery giant.

On Thursday, UPS projects that it will handle 1.3 million return packages to retailers, the busiest day in a week with an expected 5.8 million returns. UPS says Thursday’s zenith will be a record in what it says was a record year in online holiday shopping.

Consumers can’t touch or try on the item they’re considering until it arrives at their door, long after they’ve placed the order. This, together with the rapid growth of e-commerce, has created a returns boom in recent years.

Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce, which owns FreeShipping.com and ShopSmarter

“Online shoppers want the same level of choice, control and convenience making their returns as they do making their purchases,” said Teresa Finley, chief marketing officer for UPS. “While returns can’t be eliminated, an easy-to-use returns experience should be one of several retail strategies to enhance customer loyalty and manage the cost of returns processing.”

Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce, a Connecticut-based e-commerce solutions provider that owns FreeShipping.com and ShopSmarter, agrees, noting that the nature of online shopping has created a growing demand for efficient package-return services.

“Holiday shopping can often be a hit-or-miss proposition, but online shopping adds one more risk factor: Consumers can’t touch or try on the item they’re considering until it arrives at their door, long after they’ve placed the order. This, together with the rapid growth of e-commerce, has created a returns boom in recent years,” Caporaso wrote in response to questions sent by email.

Caporaso said a Clarus survey found that its customers consider “free and easy returns” and “knowing a retailer’s return policy before the purchase” as high priorities. Customers also said prepaid return slips and the option to return items to a brick-and-mortar store were important to them.

1.3 millionThe number of return packages UPS expects to handle Thursday

Experts say easy, efficient and affordable return policies are becoming essential retailers who want to maintain a loyal consumer base.

Keith Phillips, president and CEO of Voxware, a New Jersey-based provider of cloud-based solutions for distribution operations, said a recent survey by his company showed that 24 percent of respondents said a retailer sent them an incorrect item for a second time after returning an item that was sent in error.

“The fact that retailer errors remain such a prominent driver of returns means that many companies lack the distribution operations processes and technology to get the right product to the right customer,” Phillips said.

And there are concrete consequences. In a National Retail Federation survey near the close of the 2015 holiday shopping season, U.S. retailers estimated that total annual returns account for $260.5 billion in sales.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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