Increase in delivery fee refunds for unwanted items

A growing number of UK retailers are refunding the original delivery fee when a customer returns an unwanted item bought online. From the 229 tested retailers, 30% refunded the charge, which represents a sharp increase on the previous year (17%).

For the first time, the delivery charge was also refunded by store staff in two of the returns made to a branch – staff in both TopShop and Laura Ashley noted that the return was within seven days and that the original delivery fee also needed to be included.

The results were published by Snow Valley in its 2011 Online Returns & Refunds Report.

The report noted that whilst “the refunding of the delivery charge had gone up, the number of retailers that covered the cost of returning the item had fallen”.

Compared to last year, when 40% of retailers sent postage paid labels or offered a paid carrier pick-up, this year’s figure stood at 35%.

It added that only 8% of retailers paid for a customer to return the item and refunded the delivery charge.

Cross-channel return of online orders is still limited, the report said. Only 52% of retailers with a store network allowed unwanted items to be returned to a shop. “However, every store return was processed without hesitation by shop staff – a big improvement on previous years, when confusion has led to a lengthy returns experience and even a refusal to process the return,” it added.

Sarah Clelland, marketing manager at Snow Valley, said: “It’s very interesting to see that more retailers are refunding the original delivery charge. For years we’ve noted that only 17% of retailers did so, and now suddenly that has shot up to 30%. It’s rare to see such a dramatic change. My suspicion is that this is related to the fact that some retailers changed their policy in the last twelve months following negative publicity around this issue.”

Patrick Wall, CEO of MetaPack, who sponsored the report, said: “This report highlights many areas for retailers to think seriously about but those wishing to stay ahead of the pack need to now also look at their international returns.

“At the cutting edge, leading global retailers are looking to minimise returns costs or avoid them all together. The smart retailers are using local postal networks to return goods to consolidation points where they can be bulk shipped at a lower cost back to the country of origin. Where retailers gain sufficient mass, there will be attempts to re-work returned product in the destination country with the hope to re-sell within each local market.”

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