Holiday Return Strategies: When Santa Gets it Wrong

Author: Tom Bolanos – Account Executive & RFID Expert

Ugly sweaters and smelly perfumes. We’ve all been recipients of unwanted gifts. The good news is that correcting the problem has always been easy. We just show up at the store and either exchange the unwanted items for items more desirable or obtain a refund or store credit. The reason the return process is so easy is because retailers have invested a great deal of resources to set up convenient return/exchange programs for their customers, which helps sales in the long run.  Not many people would want to shop at retailers who make it difficult to return or exchange items. But there’s a serious side effect to the convenient return policies – shrink.

The (Green) Elephant in the Room

It is estimated that 13% of merchandise sold for the Holidays will be returned. If that doesn’t surprise you, perhaps the dollar value – $95 billion – will. That’s a pretty hefty portion of annual returns, which totaled $351 billion in 2017. Loss Prevention professionals need to be concerned about this because the fact is, this rate of returns is roughly 35% higher than it was in 2016. Some retailers who don’t have a plan to properly process and store this merchandise will undoubtedly be hit with unprecedented shrink. Without a solid plan in place, any large influx of merchandise will cause unwanted markdowns, which contribute to shrink.

Sure, retailers do plan for some markdowns, but the cadence of markdowns is extremely important. Retailers may start out offering 20% off specified holiday merchandise, but the markdown percentage increases over time until the merchandise is sold through. Now, imagine an increase of 35% of returned inventory! In order to accommodate this, larger markdown percentages will have to be offered to avoid a total loss caused by a retailer being stuck with the merchandise. Stockrooms are already tight in retail stores, so keeping the merchandise is hardly an option. Many financial budgets have been blown due to a lack of proper planning for holiday returns.

…And Then There Was Fraud

Refund Fraud is a large issue and one that is rarely cited as a leading cause of profit erosion. But recent surveys and experts reveal that Refund Fraud accounts for 3.5% of total returns. According to this new information:

  • Returns as a percent to sales is 8% (a recent NRF survey indicates a median return rate of 10%)
  • 2017 Returns totaled $351 billion
  • With 3.5% of returns being fraudulent, this equates to nearly $12.3 billion in lost revenue.

Ensuring the right tools are in place will help Loss Prevention professionals build a solid plan for efficiently dealing with returns. For example, EAS systems with RFID capability, coupled with the right EAS/RFID tags, is one of the most important things a Loss Prevention professional can do to ensure the success. Although a huge challenge for retailers has always been getting a high level of tagging compliance from employees, some retailers have employed source-tagging. But if determining an effective ROI from an EAS system is the goal, then shoplifting isn’t the only thing to look at. The most successful LP executives know this, and that is why Refund Fraud reduction is one of the main benefits they realize from a modern and efficient EAS system that is coupled with the right EAS/RFID tags. With this solution, employees know instantly if an item being returned was ever previously purchased. This new ability finally allows stores to curb the type of fraud in which suspects grab items off the shelf and immediately take it up for a refund without purchasing it first.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

As Loss Prevention professionals prepare for the holiday season, it’s important for them to consult other professionals who supply solutions to address their pain points. Nedap has been working with Loss Prevention professionals worldwide to help alleviate the negative financial impact caused by holiday returns. Because the sheer amount of returns that continues to increase, partnering to create an effective plan and to work that plan has never been more important.

Want to learn how you can reduce Refund Fraud using the right EAS/RFID tags?


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