More than a quarter of retailers (26%) have seen an increase in the volume of goods being returned in the last two years, new research has found.
Research from Barclaycard, which oversees almost half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, showed that in the face of rising numbers of “serial returners”, 20% of retailers said they had made their returns policies more stringent in the past year.
A further 19% of retailers said they plan to do so in the next year.
Of the businesses that have tightened up their policies, 41% said it was because too many customers were over-ordering goods in the knowledge they will return most of them.
Meanwhile, 31% of retailers that took part in the survey claimed shoppers are using items and then returning them.
However, this has not yet deterred consumers, and 29% admit they order items that they intend to return.
Nearly half of all consumers (49%) said a retailer’s returns policy influences where they decide to shop, and 18% said they will only shop with retailers that offer free returns.
Despite this, an increased awareness of sustainability issues is leading some consumers to move towards a more mindful approach to the amount they are buying and returning.
Just under half (46%) are concerned about the environmental impact of over-ordering and returning goods, and one in ten (11%) have actively reduced the amount they order and return because of this.
Anita Liu Harvey, director of strategy at Barclaycard, said: “The volume of goods being returned continues to rise and consumers have come to expect free returns as standard – otherwise they will shop elsewhere. As a result, we are seeing retailers implementing stricter returns policies to try to clamp down on serial returners and reduce the impact that returns are having on their business.
“These more stringent policies have begun to affect consumers, with some retailers starting to send warning emails to customers about accounts being deactivated, should unusual or suspicious behaviour continue. On the flip side, it does seem shoppers are becoming more mindful about the purchases they make and the impact their returns could have on the environment.”