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Why December 26 is Retailer’s Most Dreaded Day

Peter Sobotta
Updated 04/08/21 7:35 PM

Party Time?

It’s late December, and while for some that means time off work for parties and travel, for people who work in retail it means something different: we are consumed with the insanity of the holiday selling season, culminating on Christmas Day. All eyes are on Christmas Day, and the finish line is coming soon.

But Another Date Looms: December 26

Especially for those in customer service, operations and supply chain, December 26 is the kick-off to the holiday returns season. And during this decidedly less jolly season, some retailers can expect up to 30% to 50% of the merchandise they just sold to come back to them: a painful hit. Facing that reality, many retailers wonder:

What can we do to reduce skyrocketing return rates?

Product Bought For The Holiday

Isn't It Too Late For This Year?

You’re probably thinking, “It’s too late for this season.” And while on some levels that may be true—for instance, there’s nothing you can do about packages that have already left your warehouse and are about to find either love or rejection—we think it’s valuable to look at the long game.

Using the inevitable influx of returns this season in the optimal way will help your business all year. Businesses who concentrate on learning from their product returns for even a short period of time start to see sharp reductions in returned goods, thereby keeping their most valuable customers and plugging the leaking hole in their bottom line.

4 Steps To Reduce Returns This Holiday

It’s not too late to implement some of these strategies for your post-holiday returns:

  1. Consolidate Your Data: Identify strategies to speed the collection of returns data into a single data repository, if not already in place.
  2. Automatically Spot Problems: Implement or enhance returns data analysis by setting up spreadsheet functions that identify problematic products. Look at the returns in a given period and calculate the return rate by comparing what sold within that time period minus three days.
  3. Get The Team in Place: Assign responsibility for reviewing, communicating and acting on findings. Ideally this is managed by a cross-functional committee including customer service, operations, merchandising and supply chain representatives.
  4. Think Long Term: Concurrently, create a long-term plan to steer the returns prevention process, starting with assessment of the current state. Set goals and create a plan to move up the returns prevention maturity curve.

Harness This Opportunity - It Only Comes Once a Year!

The bottom line benefit of reducing return rates cannot be understated. Yet you may be surprised at how many retailers lack even rudimentary returns prevention processes, and as a result see holiday return rates continue to soar. Retailers are just beginning to understand and harness the power of optimizing their product returns.

Focusing on identifying returns issues is the first step toward making Dec. 26, 2017 a much less daunting date on the retail calendar. 

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