Retailers are gearing up for the holiday shopping season as more gift-giving and holiday parties mean more returns

Retailers are gearing up for the holiday shopping season as more gift-giving and holiday parties mean more returns
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  • Retailers incur $166 million in returns for every $1 billion in sales, NRF survey finds.
  • Nearly half of Americans believe 'wardrobing' should be a 'serious illegal offense,' a new survey found.

As holiday shopping ramps up, retailers are preparing for the aftermath of gift-giving – returns.

For some retailers, this means relaxing return policies to give customers more time to return an item while others are tightening rules to charge customers for returning products.

In a September study of 2,000 adults, market research company OnePoll found that 46% of survey respondents believed the practice of returning clothes after you've worn them — or "wardrobing" — should be considered a "serious illegal offense."

Wardrobing may seem like a harmless way to recoup some quick cash, but research shows that less than half of all returned goods can be resold by companies at full-price. According to a 2021 study by the National Retail Federation, acts of return fraud like wardrobing amount to $12.6 billion in lost sales for retailers.

To combat this offense, shoppers of brands Zara, H&M, J. Crew, and Kohl's should expect to pay up if they want to return their clothes, Fox Business reports.


In September, H&M announced it would be testing return fees in its Norway stores while J. Crew already has implemented its $7.50 flat fee for online returns, according to the Fox report.

For Zara, a $3.95 fee should be expected if a customer chooses not to return items in person. Similarly, Abercrombie & Fitch charges $7 in the same instance.

According to the Fox report, Walmart has relaxed its return policies as holiday shopping gets underway. Certain purchases made on or after October 1 are eligible for return up until January 2023.

In a November press release, the NRF predicted that holiday shopping during November and December will grow between 6% and 8% over 2021 to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion.

According to an NRF survey, retailers incur $166 million in merchandise returns for every $1 billion in sales and lose over $10 to return fraud for every $100 of returned merchandise accepted.


Although a looming recession fuels the possibility of returns and wardrobing, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says Americans will find a way to shop this season.

"In the face of these challenges, many households will supplement spending with savings and credit to provide a cushion and result in a positive holiday season," Shay said in the release.