Black Friday is already becoming a dim and distant memory, as all retail eyes are now firmly fixed on Christmas.
But unless they make every effort to shore up their supply chains, UK retailers could be facing an almighty returns hangover once the Christmas party is over, according to Fraser Ironside, head of strategic modelling at Barloworld SCS.
Referring to statistics released at Gartner’s Supply Chain Conference back in October, Ironside said: “Multichannel retail is proving to be a major headache for many retailers, not least when it comes to returns. Orders may be taken in one channel, fulfilled in another and then returned in yet another. This means demand is often overstated in one place or understated in another.”
One of the key stats revealed by Gartner was that although 66% of retailers they’d talked to were experiencing a returns increase, one-in-three were unable to track them.
“Christmas, the busiest time in the retail calendar, is quickly approaching,” Ironside said. “Brands that don’t get to grips with this – and quickly – will end up with a major challenge on their hands.”
Dealing with returns is not a new issue for retailers. However, the boom in online sales and the popularity of ‘click and collect’ fulfillment, as well as free returns, invariably presents new dilemmas. Increasingly, many retailers are dealing with the problem by outsourcing the returns process.