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Return to Sender

A whopping 73% of responders prefer cash or gift cards than “thoughtful” gifts.

January 1, 2013
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According to a holiday survey commissioned by FedEx Inc., more than a third of Americans will return gifts after the holidays. To take the headache out of the process, consumers are increasingly choosing to ship gifts back instead of dealing with the crowds at the mall.

A December 2012 survey of more than 1,000 U.S. residents found that while 36 percent expect to return gifts this season, more than half (57 percent) prefer to do so by shipping them back to the retailer, a continuation of the online shopping trend that drove record-breaking volume in the FedEx Ground network between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2012. FedEx sees the signs of that continuing preference in the days following Christmas, as returns to online retailers sent via the FedEx Ground network surge more than 25 percent.

“Americans are increasingly streamlining their seasonal checklists thanks to the convenience of online shopping, a pattern that is now extending to the post-Christmas tradition of holiday returns,” said T. Michael Glenn, executive vice president of Market Development at FedEx. “By managing these returns through FedEx, retailers can more effectively manage their inventory while shoppers keep the hassle to a minimum.”

More than two-fifths of online shoppers (43 percent) report being more likely to purchase something online when free return shipping is available. Other notable findings from the FedEx Holiday Returns Survey include:

  • The worst gift-givers are a spouse/partner (23 percent), followed closely by mom (20 percent). (Based on the frequency respondents return gifts given by these people.)
  • The vast majority of those surveyed (73 percent) would rather receive a gift without much thought (e.g., cash or gift cards) that they can use to pick a gift they’ll like, than a thoughtful gift they may not like and will need to return.
  • Most people (81 percent) say they wouldn’t be offended if a friend or family member returns a gift they gave for a holiday or special occasion.
  • Clothing (45 percent) is the most often-returned gift, followed by electronics/gadgets and toys (both 8 percent).
  • Most gift-recipients will return unwanted items shortly after the holidays. Thirty-five percent will have all gifts returned before New Year’s, while another 55 percent say the return process will be done before the end of January.

FedEx, in conjunction with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics, worked with ORC International to conduct a telephone omnibus survey of survey of 1,010 adults (503 men and 507 women 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States). Interviewing was completed on December 6 – 9, 2012. The sample is weighted to represent the U.S. population using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on age, gender, race, region, and education. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percent and results are reported at the 95 percent confidence level.

For more facts and figures about the holiday return “life cycle,” please view this infographic from FedEx Office.

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