How to Prepare for Holiday Returns

When retailers think about the holiday season, Black Friday sales usually come to mind. In fact, holiday shopping usually makes up about 30 percent of total revenue for most retailers, according to Retail Dive.

But after the tinsel is hung and gifts are exchanged, a new season hits the store: return season. This starts any time right after the Christmas holiday and goes until late January. If you don’t have a plan in place, return season can significantly cut into your revenue from what should be the happiest time of the year.

Roughly 13 percent of all merchandise purchased will be headed back to stores after December 25, according to Retail Dive. That’s roughly $90 billion worth of merchandise, a portion of which you now need to process back into your business.To keep customers happy and coming back, there’s a few steps you should take to make the return process as seemless as possible. Here’s how to get started.

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Prepare for the future of holiday selling

Share your return policy

It’s best to have a clear return policy going into the holiday season. Post the policy online and in your store, so it’s clear to all. For instance, if you allow refunds for up to 30 days, and in-store credit for 60, be sure to have plenty of gift cards on hand to give to shoppers who aren’t ready to make a new purchase that day.

Keep inventory organized

You also want to make sure that you have inventory management software that allows for easy returns. That way you can track your inventory on hand and also use metrics to see how much is being returned. You want to quantify your total rate of return, and which categories of items were returned the most.

Prep your staff

To keep return season smooth, you need to keep your staffing levels high into January. And with extra staffing comes extra training. Make sure your staff knows the return policy and key suggestions to make to customers.

Whether it’s an extra employee handling customer emails or Instagram inqueries, or another cashier solely dedicated to returns, having enough staff on hand keeps returns flowing and customers happy. Making returns a priority can help you process them quickly and see how much extra inventory you have as well as decide what to do with it.

Staff your store in January with friendly associates online and in-person, who can encourage shoppers to browse before heading to the cash register to make a return. Some customers may not be familiar with your store, so getting them to browse and pick a different size or color can help lessen lost revenue for your business.

Have a plan for waste

A lesser-known side effect of holiday returns is trash removal. If customers are returning things by mail, or bringing in their own bag to the store, you need to dispose of the cardboard boxes and packages used to return merchandise.

Plan who will take the trash out, and how often, during each shift. Also be sure to have enough recycling bins or trash bags. Clearing trash helps your store stay presentable so you can continue to drive sales.

With a plan in place, your staff feels more prepared. And it helps ensure that next holiday season, shoppers come back to your store for more.