Belfast Telegraph

The online buyer less discerning

By Donald C McFetridge

A new report - Delivery Matters by the Royal Mail - predicted that yesterday would be the busiest day of the year for online returns through the post as consumers rushed to send back unwanted or unsuitable Christmas gifts and online purchases.

Judging anecdotally by the queues in the Post Office at mid-day yesterday, they were correct in their prediction.

It has become a given in the retail calendar that the first Monday in January turns out to be one of the busiest for returning unwanted products - either purchased personally or gifted to someone over the holidays.

This year online returns rose by more than 50% in a single day, compared to the average number of parcels returned per day in December 2015.

The information contained in the Royal Mail report is based on the number of returned parcels handled by it through its Tracked Returns service.

The report further claims that the number of parcels returned through Tracked Returns increased by an astonishing 41% in the week immediately after Christmas, compared to the average number of daily return parcels for the whole month of December.

The comprehensive and well-researched report shows that last year one in six online shoppers stated they had returned or were planning to return an online Christmas purchase, with clothes found to be the most likely items to be returned, closely followed by toys and electronic products.

Nick Landon, managing director of Royal Mail Parcels, pointed out that: "At this time of year, the easiest way for many shoppers to return their items is to pop them in the mail, rather than tackle the post-Christmas queues."

However, the queues yesterday were not in the shops; instead, they were in Post Offices across the country, which causes me to ask the following questions:

  • Are we becoming much less-discerning consumers when we shop online.
  • Is clicking on the 'buy now' option becoming far too easy or tempting in spite of increased shopper sophistication?

Based on the research, the answer to both is a resounding yes.

  • Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at Ulster University Business School

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