The returns rate on all retail merchandise is expected to persist at 16.5% for 2022 as retailers continue to struggle with processing costs and consumer fraud, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and data analysis firm Appriss Retail.
The study found that the average rate of return has remained flat at 16.5% in 2022 compared with 16.6% in 2021. But as total retail sales continue to grow, that means the value of returned goods has risen apace, and is now on track to hit $816 billion this year.
That is a problem because for every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, retailers lose $10.40 to return fraud, NRF and Appriss said. Of the types of return fraud retailers say they have experienced in the past year, half (50%) cited returns of used, non-defective merchandise, also known as wardrobing, and 41.4% cited the return of shoplifted or stolen merchandise. One-fifth (20%) attributed return fraud to organized retail crime.
The survey of 70 retailers was conducted by NRF and Appriss from Sept. 19 through Oct. 14, 2022.
Those statistics also showed that online return rates have fallen are now consistent with the overall rate of return, for the first time since online data has been captured as part of the survey in 2019. Online return rates decreased from 20.8% in 2021 to 16.5% in 2022.
Despite those challenges, retailers continue to allow customer returns, seeing the practice as a way to encourage customer loyalty. “Even with 29 continuous months of retail sales growth, consumers have remained steady with the overall rate of merchandise returned to retailers this year,” Mark Mathews, NRF’s vice president of research development and industry analysis, said in a release. “While oftentimes returns represent a lost sale for a retail establishment, returns can also provide recourse through positive customer engagement and, potentially, another purchase.”