Perspectives

From The Co-Founders

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Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

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What? "Many happy returns?"

In most years, this is the week that is typically a bit of a lull. The first wave of shoppers – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, Cyber Monday – has crested; the final wave doesn't begin in earnest until this coming weekend.

But this year IS different. Shoppers began shopping in earnest much earlier. And they use the internet to do their browsing, and then have an array of choices for receiving their purchases, from delivery to curbside pickup to in-store pickup.

So, what better time than this to revisit your returns policy?!

 

Yes, returns (and exchanges.) That longtime bugaboo of retailers is a potential competitive edge. 

Last year, 13.3% of Holiday sales were returned, representing $101 billion of merchandise! And with Holiday sales this year expected to increase 7% to 9%, there is no reason to expect return rates to decline. Indeed, "81% of retailers expect to receive most holiday returns in January and 39% plan to hire more staff to handle the rush."*

So, now is the time. Dust off and update your returns policy. (Be sure it reflects the presence of BORIS: Buy Online Return In Store.)

  • Is your policy understood by your staff?
  • Do you offer "gift receipts" (not showing the price) for all purchases?
  • Do your return timeframes reflect the earlier buying this year? For instance, a 30-day return deadline may expire before Christmas! 
  • Do you publish and showcase your returns policy? In your stores? On your website? Elsewhere?
  • Are you proud of your returns policy?

Then, be prepared and staffed to make the return experience a good one for everyone. 

Keep in mind, most customers are apprehensive about making returns in person. They do not want conflict, confrontations, or insistent questioning.

Therein lies your upside opportunity! Positive word-of-mouth recognition is far more likely to come from an easy, respectful experience when returning or exchanging merchandise, than even from the initial shopping experience. 

What an effective way to differentiate your stores, and to win over customer loyalty. In fact, why not offer a 15% discount coupon to return to the store in January? What better way to get many happy returns...of the customers!

Knock their socks off. They'll yak about their surprise to lots of folks. It's the best advertising available. 

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A Day in the Life of the Return Counter. Carrie Cassidy, Appriss Retail.



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