One in five January purchases was returned, ZigZag finds

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Returns management software provider ZigZag Global has found that at least one in every five purchases made in January in the UK was returned (22%).

Its data shows that the volume of returned goods in January 2023 was significantly higher than in 2022 – up 14% – despite overall sales decreasing by 3%. The surge brought on by pre-Christmas sales and heavily discounted offers caused returns mayhem in January 2023 with more than one return every second on January 3.

The value of returned goods was also drastically higher in 2023 compared to last year – an increase of 33% and the overall value of returns was over £100m (US$120m), reflecting the 10% rise in the consumer price index over the past year. However, according to the data, it appears the choice by many retailers to charge for returns has not affected consumer behaviors as paid returns increased by 122% compared to this time last year. In January 2023, paid returns represented over one third (35%) of all returns made.

Consumers were also found to be embracing different returns methods in 2023, with the number of returns made via lockers more than doubling (113%) and collection from home increasing by 29%. This is understood to be due to the lifestyle changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, with more people still working from home and looking for more flexible returns options. There was also a slight dip in returns made via the post office (1%), which may have been influenced by the ongoing strikes.

The researchers assert that the increased popularity of lockers is also a good sign in terms of sustainability as locker returns eliminate emissions from missed deliveries and make courier journeys more efficient by traveling to a single location. It reflects the growth of the sustainable shopper and retailers’ efforts to provide easy access to a multitude of drop-off points, particularly in populated cities.

Al Gerrie, CEO of ZigZag, said, “I expect to see some interesting changes in the retail industry throughout 2023. People are still spending during the peak of the promotion that January sales provide which is encouraging for retailers. Furthermore, to see that paid returns have not hampered retail sales is also a positive sign and I expect to see more retailers looking to introduce paid returns and free returns to be used as an incentive or loyalty offer.

“The changing behaviors in the way consumers make their returns just goes to show that retailers need to offer flexibility and choice. Lockers in particular are a great choice as they’re convenient for shoppers but will also reduce the impact of returns emissions on the environment – providing a greener option. Something we’re always looking for in retail and logistics as sustainability continues to take priority.”

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As the latest addition to the UKi Media & Events team, Elizabeth brings research skills from her English degree to her keen interest in the meteorological and transportation industries. Having taken the lead in student and startup publications, she has gained experience in editing online and print titles on a wide variety of topics. In her current role as Editorial Assistant, Elizabeth will create new and topical content on the pioneering technologies in transportation, logistics and meteorology.

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