Retailers are abandoning generous returns policies in response to serial returns, according to new research.
The report by BarclayCard found that 20% of retailers have made their returns policies more stringent over the last two years.
Forty-one percent said they had changed their policy because too many customers were over-ordering items. 31% claimed that shoppers were using items and then returning them.
This was mirrored by consumer responses; 29% admitted they ordered items they intended to return, rising to 48% of 25 to 34-year-olds, the cohort often known as millennials.
Consumers are feeling the impact of the more stringent policies, with 14% of consumers saying they have been penalised for returns behaviour including the likes of warning emails to account deactivations.
These changes come as 26% of retailers said they have seen volumes of returns increase in the last two years.
Anita Liu Harvey, director of strategy, Barclaycard, said: “The volume of goods being returned continues to rise and consumers have come to expect free returns as standard – otherwise they will shop elsewhere.
“As a result, we are seeing retailers implementing stricter returns policies to try to clamp down on serial returners and reduce the impact that returns are having on their business.
“These more stringent policies have begun to affect consumers, with some retailers starting to send warning emails to customers about accounts being deactivated, should unusual or suspicious behaviour continue. On the flip side, it does seem shoppers are becoming more mindful about the purchases they make and the impact their returns could have on the environment.”
There is a clear balance to be struck, however: a recent survey by Klarna found that consumers buy more when returns are free.
Retailers therefore must ensure that the additional sales compensate for the cost of supporting returns, including by minimising the latter through maximising logistics efficiency.