51% Of Shoppers Avoid Retailers With Strict Return Policies

As the holiday season concludes, retailers now must manage an influx of returns. This period is critical in setting the tone for the coming year: more than 63% of shoppers agree (and 35% of shoppers strongly agree) that if they have a negative return experience, they will not return to that retailer, according to research  from

Strict return policies can inhibit many consumers from shopping at a specific retailer in the first place: 51% said they avoid shopping at retailers with strict return policies, and 29% strongly agreed with this statement.

Even if consumers choose a retailer with a tough return policy, they won’t spend much there. Respondents reporting that return policies affect their purchase amount spend, on average, no more than $43.12 at stores with unfavorable policies.


Consumers have distinct preferences for different return policies, particularly depending on whether the item is bought in-store or online. Both in-store (37.9%) and online (33.6%) shoppers consider a full refund to be the most important return policy retailers can implement. In-store shoppers also prefer options that:

  • Do not require a receipt (20.9%);
  • Have no time limit for returns (16.1%); and
  • Do not require bringing original payment method (10.8%).

Online shoppers care about free returns (27.8%), as well as no time limits (12.1%) and an option to return the product in store (11%).

Four Steps To Returns Approval

The report recommends retailers take four actions if they want to gain approval for their returns policies in 2018:

  • Create a rewards program so that purchase history is included, and members can return products even if they don’t have a paper receipt;
  • Consider expanding the return time frame;
  • Make it easier for customer to return an item, whether through free return shipping or providing the option to return any item purchased online in-store; and
  • Do not saddle customers with store credit, even if the short-term impact if beneficial., in partnership with Research Now, surveyed 1,000 U.S. shoppers to gather data for the report.

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