Preparing for Holiday Returns

Retailers say this could be a record year for both store and online Christmas returns

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Many holiday shoppers are following pandemic rules -- masking up and socially distancing -- at San Diego stores and shopping malls, but they also need to follow the rules if they intend to return any of their Christmas presents.

This could be a record year for holiday returns, according to retail experts. Online sales are way up, and some shoppers will buy multiple items expecting to return items that don't fit. Also, some shoppers just don't know the size they need.

"What I got is the perfect shirt for my dad," said Taryn Huget, who bought a colorful short-sleeve shirt at Hansen's Surfboards in Encinitas, "but it might not be the right size, so there's a good chance it will be returned."

Brent La Fleur with Hansen's said that at this time of year, about 10% of the merchandise purchased in the store and 15% of items sold online will be returned. La Fleur said it's part of the retail business -- especially when shoppers are buying gifts for other people.

"We're doing a lot of guessing," La Fleur said, adding that buying the wrong size is the most common reason for a return.

To make a return go smoothly, La Fleur said there are simple steps to follow:

  • Keep any packaging that comes with the product
  • Bring gift receipts and all tags, even if they've been removed from the item

"If they leave all the tags on the products, it's really going to help us out when they come back to the store," La Fleur said.

Hansen's store clerk Pamala Bennett said a store's reputation for returns makes a big difference to shoppers.

"It's just easier to make them happy," Bennett said. "They always come back when they're happy."

Making returns for online purchases is a little more challenging. It's critical to know a store's return policy, whether it's at the mall or online. A store can set whatever return policy it wants as long as it's posted.

Some major retailers like Amazon and Walmart offer returns at brick-and-mortar locations for online sales. Amazon will take returns at some Whole Foods locations. Walmart is working with FedEx to pick up returns at customer homes.

So is it important to make a return right after Christmas?

"They certainly do not have to come the day after Christmas," La Fleur said. "Come at your own convenience and whenever is going to work for you."

Hansen's has a 60-day return policy. Many stores extend their return window after Christmas, but it's important to know the store's policy before purchasing.

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