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UPS Reveals How Retailers Can Be ‘Returns Rock Stars’ This Holiday

UPS is forecasting another record-breaking year for e-commerce returns this holiday season, which the company said illustrates how the rise of clicks over bricks is continuing to evolve the way people shop.

Consumers will ship more than 1 million return packages back to retailers daily in December through UPS, the company forecast on Monday. This pace is expected to last into early January.

An initial spike in returns is expected the week before Christmas, with 1.6 million packages returned each day the week of Dec. 16, the company projected. This first spike will likely be driven by retailer promotions that will prompt shoppers to buy gifts early for others and for themselves.

The second and largest spike in returns, which UPS dubs “National Returns Day,” is expected to occur on Jan. 2 with a staggering 1.9 million packages returned through the UPS network, a 26 percent increase from last year’s peak returns day.

“As retailers start preparing for the busy holiday season, they should certainly be factoring returns into their business plans,” Kevin Warren, UPS’s chief marketing officer, said. “Gone are the days where returns were isolated to January. Today’s empowered consumers will be sending packages back to retailers all season long.”

Consumers said they will spend an average of $1,047.83 this holiday season, up 4 percent from the $1,007.24 they said they would spend last year, according to the annual survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

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NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said retailers are expected to import near-record volumes of merchandise ahead of tariffs that are scheduled to take effect on a wide range of consumer goods from China on Dec. 15.

Research continues to show that to succeed in e-commerce, retailers should offer comprehensive returns services. UPS’s 2019 Pulse of the Online Shopper study found that 73 percent of shoppers surveyed said the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again.

Another 68 percent of survey respondents agreed that the returns experience shapes their overall perceptions of a retailer, while 42 percent said free return shipping contributes most to a positive returns experience.

In the NRF survey, holiday shoppers said they plan to spread their shopping across multiple channels, with 56 percent saying they will shop online. Among online shoppers, 92 percent plan to take advantage of free shipping and 48 percent will use buy online, pick-up in store or ship-to-store services, and 16 percent plan to use same-day delivery, which has doubled since 2015.

“If retailers want to be considered a ‘Returns Rock star’ this holiday season, they will need to be prepared to offer a seamless, hassle-free returns experience to consumers,” Warren said. “UPS has a whole portfolio of products that can help simplify holiday returns for consumers and retailers alike.”

For example, customers making returns this holiday season can take advantage of a network of more than 15,000 UPS Access Point locations in the U.S. for secure, convenient returns. UPS’s Access Point network was recently expanded to include Michaels and CVS stores, making it easier to pick up and return holiday orders.

More than 4,800 The UPS Store locations are included in the UPS Access Point network. At these stores, customers and businesses have access to packing, shipping and returns services, as well as holiday printing for holiday cards, calendars and invitations.

Additional UPS returns services include the UPS Returns Manager portal offering shippers control and visibility over their returns, UPS Print Return Labels and UPS Electronic Return Labels, as well as UPS Returns Plus that allows the merchant to send a driver to deliver a return label and pick up the return package from any address, and UPS Returns Exchange, where a driver simultaneously picks up the return item while delivering the replacement.