© Reuters. Navigating the Maze of Holiday Return Policies
Quiver Quantitative – This holiday season, returning gifts may require more attention to detail due to changes in retailers’ return policies. Companies like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:) and Macy’s (NYSE:) have implemented new fees or tightened return windows for online purchases. The surge in online shopping and returns during the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted about 40% of retailers to charge for online returns, an increase from last year’s 31%, as per Narvar, a firm specializing in managing returns. This trend is an effort to offset the high costs associated with shipping and labor for online retailers.
Amazon (AMZN/a>), for example, has shortened its holiday return window by three weeks compared to previous years, now only accepting returns for items purchased from November 1 onwards. This change means that items bought during Amazon’s October early holiday season sale are excluded from the return policy. Best Buy (NYSE:), Costco (NASDAQ:), and Kohl’s (KSS) have maintained their return policies, with varying degrees of leniency and charges for online returns.
Market Overview: -Holiday cheer dampened by stricter return policies across major retailers. -Increased online return fees and shortened windows add holiday shopping stress. -Consumers urged to read fine print and compare options before making purchases.
Key Points: -Amazon cuts return window by three weeks, potentially trapping early-season shoppers. -Best Buy, Macy’s, and Marshalls introduce online return fees or fee hikes. -Staples trims return window, while Target and Walmart (NYSE:) extend electronics deadlines. -Experts advise researching policies and utilizing in-store returns to avoid fees.
Looking Ahead: -Continued focus on reducing return costs likely leads to stricter policies in future seasons. -Consumers encouraged to be mindful of purchase decisions and plan for potential returns. -Retailers face balancing customer satisfaction with managing operational expenses.
Some retailers like Macy’s (M) have introduced a fee for online returns, specifically targeting non-members of their loyalty programs. Conversely, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx (TJX (NYSE:)) have increased their return-by-mail fee to $11.99, although in-store returns remain free. In contrast, Staples (SPLS) has shortened its return window by nine days, and Walmart (WMT) maintains free online returns with a January 31 deadline for most items purchased in the October-December period.
For consumers, the advice is clear: read the return policies carefully to avoid fees or being stuck with an unwanted purchase. Edgar Dworsky of ConsumerWorld.org suggests that if a retailer charges for online returns, bringing the item back to a physical store can be a cost-free alternative. With the landscape of return policies becoming more complex, consumers need to be more vigilant to navigate the changes effectively.