Black Friday returns stats could point to Christmas chaos on the horizon

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Retail returns specialist, ZigZag Global – which works with brands including Selfridges, Boohoo, Karen Millen and Superdry – has revealed some analysis of Black Friday weekend (26th November) data from 2021 to understand how shoppers are ‘returning’ to Black Friday and Cyber Monday post-pandemic.

The headline stat is a whopping 129% year-on-year increase in return volumes from 2019 to 2021.

In addition, the value of returned products has increased significantly (74%) since Black Friday in 2019. The most expensive product returned to date, according to its research with partners, was a winter coat that cost £2,800; the cheapest item returned was a two-pack pair of socks that were bought for just 6p!

Jeans were found to be the most common item to be returned from Black Friday sales. Shoppers are increasingly buying items in multiple sizes or colours to try them on at home, with the intention of returning at least one item. Known as ‘bracketing’, ZigZag found earlier this year that a third of online shoppers (33%) now do this.

Of course, it is the consumer’s right to change their mind and return products. However, ZigZag also found that ‘wardrobing’ and ‘staging’ are also increasing in popularity – where the shopper buys a product to wear once and then returns it or uses it to take a photo for social media before returning the product(s). Retailers are increasingly looking at tech solutions to combat retail fraud.

ZigZag also found shoppers have become more confident with technology and are putting sustainability at the forefront, with 60% choosing paperless returns using a QR code. The research shows that 23% of consumers always want to choose the most sustainable option if given the option to do so.

“We have seen some really interesting shifts in consumer behaviour compared with pre-pandemic,” commented Al Gerrie, CEO of ZigZag. “It is clear that buyers prefer to buy and return online now and that speed of refund has become extremely important. The first Black Friday returns have already been sent back and customers are expecting instant refunds after they drop items off.

“Retailers need to turn these products around quickly to get goods back in the supply chain and re-sold before Christmas,” added Gerrie. “We have also noticed that there is a much bigger shift towards consumers selecting paperless returns via a QR code – almost 60% of shoppers selected this method.”

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