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"Crimbo Limbo" sets in as UK retailers face giant returns peak

December 12, 2018

Monday 3rd December proved to be a big day for UK retailers as online returns registered increased by 143% in the aftermath of Black Friday. The day, which we’re calling ‘Make Up Your Mind Monday’, saw the biggest peak in returns than any other day in 2018. From looking at the returns data from our top 50 UK retailers we uncovered that shoppers were quick to send back those hastily bought Black Friday purchases, leading to a returns uplift that was almost double that of last year.

Returns Snapshot 1

Each year we see retailers gearing up for the big day, ready to handle the enormous influx in sales. With IMRG estimating that shoppers spent £1.49bn on UK online retail sites on Black Friday, when ‘Make Up Your Mind Monday’ rolls around many retailers are faced with a wall of parcels in the warehouse. These then need to be processed and refunded before the true financial success of Black Friday can be calculated. It sounds simple, but with many retailers making outbound orders the only priority through peak, the “Crimbo Limbo” of unprocessed returned stock can cause quite the issue retailers. Of course, returning a gift bought on Black Friday isn’t a problem for the shopper, they’ve still got plenty of time to order something else before Christmas. But for retailers facing a 143% uplift in returns, that’s a huge amount of items that they need to get back into stock before they can be resold. For retailers with a lack of resources and focus on returns through peak, this can take until mid-January. Add to this the fact that January see’s 85% more returns than any other month of the year, retailers warehousing and returns teams can certainly expect to have a busy start to 2019. This is why it’s increasingly important to get on the front-foot with your returns and get them processed as soon as possible.

This increase in returns can leave retailers suffering from a £250m returns hangover from sales made over Black Friday weekend. Whilst under normal circumstances retailers can recoup a large amount of this from reselling stock, the longer a retailer leaves it to process their returns the less they can get back as returned stock typically ends up in January sales at a discounted price.

There was also a notable uplift in returns on Wednesday 28th November, with returns seeing a 129% uplift on this day. This returns spike which took place six days prior to ‘Make Up Your Mind Monday’ is indicative of many retailers starting their Black Friday deals even earlier, not just limiting them to the Friday itself. IMRG went so far as to call November ‘Blackvember’, claiming that Black Friday deals are no longer isolated to one single day, or even week with  deals actually starting much earlier. Of the 260 retailer websites they tracked throughout November, 40% had their deals live by Monday 19th November. This is up 4% from last year, and includes some of the big house hold names that did not start their deals as early last year. From looking at our own returns data this statement appears to ring true with an increased return rate starting even earlier on 15th November, before reaching the single highest peak for returns on Monday 3rd December.

Returns Snapshot 2

‘Make Up Your Mind Monday’ is just further proof that retailers need to be factoring returns into their plans at this busy time of year, it isn’t all about outbound shipments. With the Black Friday deals dragging out further and further each year it is now even harder to predict and prepare for what will inevitably be a higher rate of returns, as demonstrated by the earlier uptake in returns on Wednesday 28th November. Retailers with their eyes on the data will be able to better plan their resources, which is essential at any time of year - not just peak. By understanding what is being returned, why, and when it will arrive retailers can make sure their warehouse is well equipped to handle the high return volumes. This is critical for getting inbound parcels processed and back in stock in time to resell for Christmas.

Whilst ‘Make Up Your Mind Monday’ might be the day shoppers decide what returns they’re going to make, at what point is your business going to decide to focus on returns?

Keen to know more about the return stats we've uncovered over peak? View our helpful infographic. 

View Infographic