Returns are inevitable this Black Friday, but savvy retailers can still come out on top

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By Al Gerrie at retail returns specialist ZigZag Global

“With the cost of living crisis and rising inflation hitting consumers’ wallets, I would expect overall sales to be down this Black Friday, with all the data pointing to lower discretionary spending than usual. With this in mind, it is much more likely that price-savvy shoppers will use Black Friday deals to save money on Christmas presents for friends and family rather than buying for themselves. 

“For retailers, Black Friday is not only a crucial sales period but also one they need to get right in terms of returns. Proportionately returns have been on the increase since the pandemic. The number of shoppers buying multiple sizes and colours has jumped from 33 per cent to 41 per cent, so even though some retailers are seeing a drop off in their like for like sales, the returns have steadily increased on a pro rata basis.

Black Friday’s impact on retail

“With consumer priorities focusing on value for money and getting ‘the perfect gift’, there’s likely to be an influx of returns post-Black Friday. Considering the issues retailers face this peak season, they are expected to be lighter on stock as they carry less due to cash flow and supply chain issues. So it’s imperative that retailers can get items back into the supply chain as early as possible in order to re-sell them before Christmas and prevent a build up of stock that cannot be sold. 

“Black Friday as a peak sales period is most definitely here to stay, though it has evolved in recent years from a 24-48 hour sales period at the end of November to almost a month-long sale. This is to quench the thirst for promotions among consumers and also remain competitive among retailers as more and more offer this long discount period.

Who will win on Black Friday?

“I expect the retailers that will come out on top will be those that offer more flexible return options, such as ‘refund to gift card’ and ‘live exchanges’ to help save the sale, and convenience to give customers choice. Collection from home and more varied drop-off points such as 24 hour supermarkets or lockers are providing unprecedented advantages for consumers. Retailers with a smooth, easy and flexible returns process will win the day – not just for consumers, but also in terms of getting their stock back quickly and efficiently.”