Pandemic Alters Retail Return Policies


Due to the coronavirus pandemic, retailers have been forced to make drastic changes to their return policies. Since March retailers have extended return times, allowing shoppers to return items 180 days after it was purchased. Some retailers have even temporarily stopped allowing returns until the pandemic passes. These changes will certainly impact retailer profits in the coming months.

Longer Return Windows

Merchants are extending their return windows due to the pandemic forcing shut-downs and hindering shipping. Amazon, for example, offered a 30-day return window for most orders, this has now changed.

“The health and well-being of our customers, employees, and the communities we serve are of utmost importance to us,” read the return policy page on Amazon’s website on April 28, 2020. “Therefore, we are temporarily extending the return window to give you more time to send items back. Most of the items ordered from Amazon or our Seller partners between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020, can be returned until May 31, 2020.”

Macy’s also announced that they will give in-store shoppers an added 30 days to return items and online shoppers an added 60 days.

Readjusting return policies has also affected mid-sized retailers. Ecommerce platform communications manager, offered La Perla, an apparel retailer as an example.

The La Perla website states “As we are all adapting to the current circumstances, we have extended our current return policy to 60 days for online orders (final sale excluded) bought after March 1st, 2020. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we thank you for your understanding and patience at this difficult time.”

Paul Magel the president of the business applications division at CGS, a learning and outsourcing firm, summarized in an email to Practical Ecommerce, the need for extending returns.

Magel stated “Returns have long been a focal point of ecommerce business, as many point to that area as a major leakage of both revenue and profit. This lengthened return policy is just another variable in the new normal that brands and retailers will have to factor into their ongoing business model. This change in policy was not for improvement to customer service or goodwill; rather, it is seen as a necessity to continue to conduct business during this time of stay-at-home orders and social distancing.”

Suspending Returns

Returns have also been suspended or canceled entirely, due to public health reasons. Retailers trying to do their best to limit coronavirus spreading.

Walmart and Target have stopped accepting in-store returns or exchanges for several product categories for the time being. Other retailers are making all sales final.

Repercussions to Profits

These new return and exchange policies that have changed because of the pandemic, will most likely reduce profit in the near future for retailers.

Another issue retailers will encounter is that returns that do arrive may be worth less.

Magel from CGS’s stated “Retailers will now need to factor in the increased cost of returns, resulting from goods having been purchased at a much higher price point than what that return will be worth when it is sent or brought back to the store,”

The issue Magel is talking about is especially true for seasonal goods like fashion apparel.

Fashion apparel usually peaks it’s price just before the season begins and by mid-season, retailers start to offer discounts. Once the season ends, items are then placed on closeout.

Due to retailers being cautious not to spread the current virus, stores’ return policies are beginning to change.

Author Bio: Blair Thomas has been a music producer, bouncer, screenwriter and for over a decade has been the proud Co-Founder of eMerchantBroker, with the highest rated high risk merchant account in the country. He has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a hurricane, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. He currently calls Thailand his home with a lifetime collection of his favorite books.