Amid E-commerce Boom, Most Still Plan to Return Gifts in Person

31% of survey respondents who received at least one present they plan to return will do so by mail
Less than one-third of survey respondents said they anticipate returning a holiday gift by mail. (Getty Images / manonallard)
January 08, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

In the wake of a holiday shopping season like no other, retailers and delivery companies around the country have been bracing for an influx of costly online returns. But new polling from Morning Consult shows that shoppers looking to return items prefer in-person transactions over returning items by mail.

Of the 18 percent of consumers planning to return at least one gift they received this holiday season, almost three-quarters (74 percent) said they’ll do so by bringing it back to the store, while less than one-third (31 percent) said they anticipate making a return by mail. 

The survey was conducted Dec. 29-30, 2020, among 2,200 U.S. adults.

This is despite 2020’s surge in e-commerce and subsequent flood of package deliveries. Commercial real estate firm CBRE forecasted $234.9 billion in online holiday sales this year, a 40 percent increase from last year, in its December report, but it expects up to $70.5 billion worth of holiday gifts will be returned, or about 30 percent.

Online returns are expensive for companies: On average, the logistics connected to returns amount to 59 percent of the product’s original sales price of the item, according to CBRE.

Delivery networks were already feeling the stress of consumers' new ecommerce habits in early December 2020. United Parcel Service Inc. then reportedly imposed temporary shipping restrictions on a number of large retailers, including Gap Inc. and Nike Inc., as it braced for an influx of online orders.

Alyssa Meyers previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering brands and marketing.

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