Next Up for Retailers Big Wave of Gift Returns

As shoppers tuck their final Christmas presents under the tree, U.S. retailers are bracing for a recordsetting flood of returns of online gifts bought during the deadly surge in coronavirus cases. To make the process more efficient, retailers including Walmart Inc and Target Corp let shoppers drop unwanted gifts at FedEx or United Parcel Service dropoff sites.

Others, including Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods and Nordstrom, are offering curbside returns for the first time as efforts to stop the spread of COVID19 have shuttered stores or reduced the number of customers allowed inside.

Returns are set to swell this year. Shoppers seeking to avoid contagion shifted from stores to online where return rates are historically higher. Retailers also are under pressure to make the process as seamless as possible for the shoppers they want to retain as longtime customers as well as for UPS and FedEx, which are inundated with packages.

Even some shopping malls are moving to make returns easier for their tenants. Mall of America and Simon Property Group have both partnered with Narvar, a returns management provider, to eliminate the need for shoppers to print return labels for packages they drop off.

The National Retail Federation expects 2020 holiday sales to jump as much as 5.2 from last year to 766.7 billion. Roughly 13 of merchandise, or about 101 billion worth of goods, sold during the 2020 holiday season will be returned, the trade group said.

Optoro, which helps retailers…

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