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Holiday sales aren't over: One-in-five Americans plan on returning a gift this year


CHICAGO — Nearly a quarter (21%) of Americans stated that they are likely to return or exchange at least one of the presents that they received this holiday season, according to a study released Wednesday by Retale. Male respondents expressed a greater interest in returning or exchanging gifts (30%) than female respondents (20%). 


Among all survey participants, the overwhelming majority (70%) prefer to return or exchange gifts in-store, while only 9% prefer to do so online. As many as 21% of those surveyed had no specific venue preference. In-store returns and exchanges were eight times more preferred than online due to perceived convenience. 


When asked to rate convenience for both in-store and online returns and exchanges, in-store was the clear frontrunner, with 62% rating the experience as convenient versus 21% inconvenient. The online return and exchange experience was viewed less favorably, with 45% calling it convenient versus 38% inconvenient. Relatedly, 85% of those surveyed said that major retailers should allow in-store returns and exchange of gifts that were purchased online.


“Over the years, retailers have taken steps to make the return and exchange process as easy as possible, including receipt-free experiences and even curb side pick-up,” stated Pat Dermody, president of Retale. “Many retailers are now also allowing customers to buy online and return in a physical store, which our survey indicates is in high-demand. The added flexibility is a big benefit for customers and we see that reflected in the convenience rating for in-store returns and exchanges.”


When asked to identify the biggest challenges in returning or exchanging gifts received this holiday season, regardless of venue, the top four were: “keeping track of any necessary receipts” (34%); “shipping and handling” (26%); “confusing return policies” (20%); and “any required, additional costs” (16%). 


During the holidays, gift cards present an alternative to traditional presents. Among those surveyed, 64% received a gift card. Within that group, 92% said that they were pleased with the gift. 


When asked where they were most likely to use their gift cards, 76% said that they preferred in-store, while only 24% said they would use their cards online (17% via desktop and 7% via mobile device). 


“Not only have gift cards become a hugely popular preferred alternative to traditional presents, as seen in our survey,” added Dermody, “But they drive impressive foot traffic in-store well after the holiday season is over.”  


When respondents were asked if they spent the same, more, or less on holiday gifts this year versus last year, 32% said that they spent more, 46% spent the same amount, and 22% scaled back and spent less. 


Among the 32% that spent more, the top four reasons were: “the deals were better” (44%); “I feel confident about the economy and my financial situation” (31%); “I could shop and buy in-store, on my phone or tablet, or from my computer, so I just found myself buying more” (24%); and “cheaper gas prices put more money in my pocket” (19%).


Retale's study examined the likelihood and preferences of consumers returning and exchanging gifts received during the recent holiday season. The study focused on several areas regarding returns and exchanges, including preferred venues (in-store versus online), overall convenience, and barriers to entry. 500 adult men and women across the U.S. were polled between Jan. 1-6, 2015.





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