UK shoppers have £2.4 billion in unreturned online goods

UK shoppers potentially have £2.4 billion of unreturned online goods as lockdown restrictions have made returning unwanted items harder for consumers, according to research by InPost.

The research by the locker network – based on a survey of over 2,000 UK adults at the end of January – found that 57 per cent of online shoppers said returning items bought online is time-consuming given lockdown restrictions, while 45 per cent said retailers need to make returning goods easier.

InPost’s research also said that consumers with unwanted purchases have an average of three items to be returned, with an average total value of £165 per person, and that 51 per cent of respondents have accumulated more items to return over the January lockdown than they would have normally.

The online shoppers surveyed also indicated that social distancing when undertaking returns remains a concern, 54 per cent said they are concerned about coming into contact with other people at a post office, parcel drop-off shop or when in a store to return goods, while 62 per cent said retailers need to have a contact-free returns option.

65 per cent of those surveyed said they do not want to spend time queuing at post offices or parcel drop-off shops for returns, and 42 per cent said that having a parcel drop-off point near their home would encourage them to make a return sooner.

In addition, 46 per cent of respondents said they are more cautious about spending when waiting for a refund on goods they have returned to a retailer, and 29 per cent said retailers should issue refunds for returned goods faster during current restrictions.

InPost concluded that the quicker and easier retailers can make the returns process, the better for consumers and for the economy.

In terms of finances, 53 per cent of respondents said they are spending the same as usual during the lockdown - excluding online food, take-away or grocery orders - while 41 per cent are spending less.

19 per cent of respondents said they plan to increase spending once lockdown restrictions lift, which InPost said could suggest retailers will see an uplift in sales as lockdown ends.

“It’s clear that shoppers are struggling to return goods during the current restrictions and lockdown,” Jason Tavaria, UK chief executive at InPost, commented. “With no firm end to these in sight, it’s vital that retailers make it easier for people to return goods during this period by offering a wider range of returns options, including local parcel drop-off points such as lockers.”

“Not only will they be rewarded with better stock control and improved customer loyalty, they will also be well positioned with customers once restrictions lift and spending increases again.”

“The issue of difficult returns appears to be even more acute for the nation’s key workers, including healthcare and emergency service staff.

“This group told us that they have more items waiting to be returned, find it harder to return them given the current restrictions, and are more likely to end up keeping purchases bought online because returning them was too difficult.”

He concluded: “With most returns options remaining impractical for them, we’re continuing to roll out lockers in locations such as hospitals and supermarkets that offer key workers easy access to a safe and secure way to make parcel deliveries and returns, outside of traditional working hours.”

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