Retailers revisit return policies ahead of the holiday season

Retailers are pulling back on their generous return policies, says Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at ecommerce platform and technology provider Salesforce Inc.  

88% of global retailers plan to make their return policies stricter this year, according to a Salesforce survey of 1,125 retail decision-makers across North America, Asia-Pacific, South America and Europe.  

In fact, during the 2022 holiday season, returns increased 12% compared with the previous holiday season, according to Salesforce client data from 1 billion global shoppers.  

The reason for the pullback in generous return policies is because the economics are not good for the business long term, Garf says. 

“Retailers historically had liberal returns windows in order to give more confidence to consumers when shopping online,” Garf says. “However, retailers and brands are re-evaluating those windows in order to optimize costs and margins.” 

Retailers implement stricter return policies  

Today, more retailers are implementing “final sale” policies for purchases (meaning no returns) or shortening the return window, Garf says. 

The average return window for U.S. retailers is 30 days and is 14 days in Europe, according to a Salesforce analysis of 350 global online retailers (171 of which were from the U.S.) in April 2023. Salesforce predicts that U.S. retailers will shorten their windows even more. 

More than a quarter of shoppers have noticed changes to retailers’ policies, with 29% of shoppers saying they’ve noticed more retailers adding restrictions to their policies, according to a July 2023 survey of 1,011 online shoppers from Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights 

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