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Holiday Returns Likely to Fuel Sales, Survey Says

Tamara E. Holmes
Holiday Returns Likely to Fuel Sales, Survey Says

If you’re glad you made it through the holiday season with your budget intact, take heed: A new survey suggests that holiday gift returns could spark another spending frenzy.

Every year, consumers hit the stores looking for holiday gifts. However, the prospect of returning or exchanging gifts they don’t want gives many consumers another reason to head to the mall after the holiday season is over. Consumer engagement company Valassis surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to learn more about this yearly ritual.

The study found that consumers returning or exchanging gifts at a store often fill their shopping carts with other purchases, as 77% of respondents said they are likely to do this — and 20% even admitted that when returning a gift last year, they spent more on a new purchase than the value of the gift they were returning. A sizable 76% majority also said they specifically look for discounts on other products before they return their items, suggesting that they aren’t merely making impulse buys.

Some also use trips to the mall to return an item as an opportunity to put gift cards to use. More than half of respondents (53%) said they have used a gift card to buy something while they were returning or exchanging another item.

In-person returns common, especially among older shoppers

Having the option to return a gift is important to shoppers, as 94% of consumers said they are more likely to buy items from retailers that offer flexible return policies. Likewise, a 71% majority said they prefer physically taking an item back to a store, rather than mailing or shipping it to an online retailer.

Women were more likely to prefer returning an item in-store, with 80% feeling this way, compared to 62% of men. In terms of age, shoppers under 45 year old appeared more partial to shipping their returns back. Among respondents aged 25-34, 42% said they were more likely to mail their returned items, while a similar 44% of those aged 35-44 were also more prone to shipping. Comparatively, just 29% of the overall survey sample said they would opt for the mail rather than return items in person.

Shoppers were also more likely to return or exchange a holiday item if the retailer makes the process easier by…

  • Creating an “easy” and straightforward in-store return process (cited by 36% of respondents)
  • Providing an extended period of time for returning gifts (cited by 20%)
  • Offering free shipping (cited by 18%)

If you’re an impulsive shopper, it’s a good idea to avoid circumstances in which you may be tempted to spend money. For example, shipping an item back to Amazon or other retailers — rather than taking it back to the store — might stop you from spending money you didn’t intend to spend.

If you do plan to take items back in person, you might even consider creating a budget that limits how much you can spend. That way, you won’t come away with a bad case of shopper’s guilt.