Retale Reports Nearly 25% to Return or Exchange Gifts Received This Holiday Season


With holiday gift-giving officially over, the returns and exchanges are just beginning.

According to a new study from Retale (500 polled) that looks at post-holiday returns/exchanges, nearly 1-out-of-4 will return or exchange at least one of the presents that they received this holiday season.

Additional findings from the report include:

–          70% prefer to return or exchange gifts in-store versus online

–          62% said the in-store return and exchange process was convenient

–          Nearly 40% called the online return and exchange process inconvenient

–          85% want retailers to allow in-store returns or exchanges of gifts bought online

–          30% of all men are interested in returning or exchanging gifts versus 20% women

–          The #1 challenge (34%) to returns or exchanges is “keeping track of receipts”


Nearly a quarter (21%) of those surveyed stated that they are likely to return or exchange at least one of the presents that they received this holiday season. Additionally, male respondents expressed a greater interest in returning or exchanging gifts (30%) than female respondents (20%) by as much as 10%.

In-Store Versus Online

Among all survey participants, the overwhelming majority (70%) prefer to return or exchange gifts in-store, while only 9% prefer to do so online. 21% of those surveyed had no specific venue preference. In-store returns and exchanges were eight times more preferred than online due to perceived convenience.

When asked to rate convenience for both in-store and online returns and exchanges, in-store was the clear frontrunner, with 62% rating the experience as convenient versus 21% inconvenient. The online return and exchange experience was viewed less favorably, with 45% calling it convenient versus 38% inconvenient. Relatedly, 85% of those surveyed said that major retailers should allow in-store returns and exchange of gifts that were purchased online.

“No one likes exchanges,” said Pat Dermody, President of Retale. “Retailers don’t like them because a customer has been disappointed and they’ve lost a sale. Customers don’t like them because they now have to take their time to return the merchandise. Over the years, retailers have taken steps to make the return process as easy as possible, including receipt-free returns and even curb side pick-up. Retailers have also gotten better at allowing customers to buy online and return in a physical store. They recognize the desire to move seamlessly from one channel to another and most have adjusted their processes to be able to make that happen for customers.”


When asked to identify the biggest challenges in returning or exchanging gifts received this holiday season, regardless of venue, the top four were: “keeping track of any necessary receipts” (34%); “shipping and handling” (26%); “confusing return policies” (20%); and “any required, additional costs” (16%).

Gift Cards

During the holidays, gift cards present an alternative to traditional presents. Among those surveyed, 64% received a gift card. Within that group, 92% said that they were pleased with the gift.

When asked where they were most likely to use their gift cards, 76% said that they preferred in-store, while only 24% said they would use their cards online (17% via desktop and 7% via mobile device).

“This year, we saw traditional retailers ramp up marketing for gift cards,” added Dermody. “Not only have they become a hugely popular preferred alternative to traditional presents, as seen in our survey, but they drive impressive foot traffic in-store well after the holiday season is over.”

Overall Spending

When respondents were asked if they spent the same, more, or less on holiday gifts this year versus last year, 32% said that they spent more, 46% spent the same amount, and 22% scaled back and spent less.

Among the 32% that spent more, the top four reasons were: “the deals were better” (44%); “I feel confident about the economy and my financial situation” (31%); “I could shop and buy in-store, on my phone or tablet, or from my computer, so I just found myself buying more” (24%); and “cheaper gas prices put more money in my pocket” (19%).

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