As a result of higher rates of internet shopping than expected and returns, up to one in five “this season” items were absent in today’s store sales, returns firm Clear Returns has warned. The company said that since it takes warehouses several days to process and prepare items for resale, huge volumes of Black Friday returns would not make it back into shops in time.
For bricks-and-mortar shops, it was another kick in the teeth by online stores, which took most of the Black Friday trade this year. The level of stock “in transit” will hamper their profits by leaving them with less to sell today.
A record £1 billion worth of items were expected to be returned after Black Friday online customers adopted a “buy now, decide later” attitude instead of braving the high street. Last year some stores – mostly women’s fashion outlets – found more than 60 pc of online Black Friday sales were returned within 30 days.
George Mensah, an expert at consumer analyst Shore Capital, said the volume of online returns was a major concern. “Last year the disruption caused by having to deal with a high level of returned items in late December meant retailers struggled around Christmas time, and this year it could be even worse,” he said.
Peoplevox, a warehouse management company, said many major retailers’ warehouses were inefficient at dealing with high volumes of returns because they were using “ageing” software – and in some cases just paper and pens – to track parcels.