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Consumer Behavior

Retail returns hit $761B in 2021

Retail returns hit $761B in 2021Photo by

Retailers expect more than $761 billion in products sold in 2021 will be returns, according to a National Retail Federation report conducted with Appriss Retail.

The figure represents an average of 16.6% of total U.S. sales, which spiked to $4.583 trillion in 2021.

"As total retail sales continue to accelerate from sustained consumer demand during the pandemic, it is no surprise that the overall rate of returns has also been impacted," Mark Mathews, NRF vice president of research development and industry analysis, said in a press release on the research projection. "While retailers have indicated that they are seeing an increase in items returned to stores and online, the upside is that it also provides them with additional opportunities to connect further with customers and provide a positive experience."

The 2021 total rate of returns (16%) is up from 10.6% during 2020, but online returns are on par with recent years.

According to NRF, online sales accounted for $1.05 trillion of total U.S. retail sales last year.

Approximately $218 billion of online purchases were returned, with $23.2 billion (10.6%) deemed fraudulent, according to the release.

For every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $166 million in merchandise returns, according to the research. It also found that for every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, retailers lose $10.30 to return fraud.

"Retailers must rethink returns as a key part of their business strategy," Steve Prebble, Appriss Retail CEO, said in the release. "Retail is dealing with an influx of returned items. Now is the time to stop thinking of returns as a cost of doing business and begin to view them as a time to truly engage with your consumers."


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