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Lockdown restrictions fuelling returns “ticking time bomb”

Gaelle Walker
10 February 2021

Lockdown restrictions are fuelling a returns “ticking time bomb” with UK shoppers thought to be sitting on a potential £2.4 billion of unreturned goods bought online, new research by locker network InPost suggests.

Shoppers with items still to return are thought to be hoarding average of three unwanted items, worth approximately £165 per person, with 57% of online shoppers blaming the current lockdown restrictions for creating a much more challenging returns processes.

The issue of difficult returns was most acute for the nation’s key workers, including healthcare and emergency service staff, who said they had more items waiting to be returned and found it harder than ever before to do so given the current restrictions, the study found.

Shoppers who had returned goods originally bought online, cited social distancing as a key concern, with 54% saying that they were worried about coming into contact with other people at a Post Office or parcel drop-off shop and 65% saying they didn’t want to spend time queuing.

Almost half of all shoppers with goods yet to return urged retailers to make it easier for them to do so, with more contact free options and parcel drop off points.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) said that retailers needed to have a contact-free returns option, while 42% said that having a parcel drop-off point nearer their home would encourage them to make a return sooner.

Shoppers also called for retailers to be clearer about their returns policies and offer longer returns windows after the point of purchase, while 29% said retailers should issue refunds for returned goods more quickly during the current restrictions.

Respondents also said that they were now more likely to check how long they have to return items and how many options retailers offer for returning items when making purchases.

Difficulties and worries over returning goods was also prompting shoppers to hold back on spending more elsewhere, with 46% of people saying they were more cautious about spending whilst waiting for a refund.

Just over 40% of people said they had reigned in their spending during the current lockdown, while 19% said they planned to increase it once lockdown restrictions lift.

InPost chief executive officer Jason Tavaria said: “It’s clear that shoppers are struggling to return goods during the current restrictions and lockdown.

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.”

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