UPS predicts an early spike in product returns this holiday season. The parcel carrier expects 1.5 million packages to be returned today (Dec. 19), ahead of the Christmas holiday, reports CNBC. In previous years, returns have spiked at the beginning of the new year, with Jan. 3 usually the busiest day for returns. UPS credits this shift to a longer holiday shopping season that started earlier in the year, and an increase in online purchases. The growing popularity of retail rental services also adds more packages to the holiday season. Kathleen Marran, vice president of U.S. marketing for UPS, says “there are a lot of these rental services now … and we have a lot of parties going on during the holidays … [so] people are deciding what they want to keep or don’t want to keep earlier this year.” During last year's 2017 holiday shopping season, U.S. shoppers returned more than $90 billion of merchandise. That number is only expected to increase with e-commerce sales growing, says returns optimization platform Optoro. Carriers like FedEx, USPS, and UPS forecast a record amount of activity in their centers this season in addition to the influx of holiday returns.
Total Retail's Take: The early surge in holiday returns reflects a shift in consumer behavior. More people are choosing to shop online, buy products for themselves, and capitalize on early sales. As retailers offer a variety of relaxed return policies and exchange options, more customers are feeling confident in online purchasing and taking advantage of easy returns. Retailers are seeing an increase in sales before Christmas, as shoppers rushing to purchase last-minute gifts are looking to services like Amazon Prime for free two-day shipping and fast returns. Shoppers’ experiences during the return process also weighs heavily on their likelihood to purchase from that retailer again, as many consumers will go to other stores after a negative return experience. An abundance of returns will continue into 2019, with UPS predicting 1.3 million packages to be returned on Jan. 3, 2019.