Post Office predicts big surge in pre-Christmas returns is yet to come as online shoppers cash-in on convenience

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The Post Office expects to receive its biggest ever pre-Christmas returns surge this week (15 December) as almost a third (31%) of consumers make final preparations in the lead up to Christmas.

The findings reveal how the growing ease of returning online purchases is being capitalised on by time-poor consumers, with three quarters of Christmas present returns carried out before the big day by those still searching for the perfect gift.

The research examined the purchasing habits of 2,000 consumers and found that while two out of five (42%) presents will be bought online this festive season, one in five (22%) shoppers will send back unwanted items within two to three days of buying.

With Christmas sales creeping forward each year and figures from the IMRG stating that the UK snapped up £810m worth of online deals on Black Friday (28 November) this year, it seems many want to make the most of the pre-Christmas bulk-buy and return opportunities. In fact, consumers across the UK are set to return total of £813m worth of gifts over the pre-Christmas season, with shoppers saving an average of five hours this Christmas by avoiding the high street for the majority of their purchases.

Among UK consumers, women are much more likely to return unwanted gifts for friends and family well in advance of Christmas, with one in six (18%) stating they send back items up to 10 days before, giving them enough time to continue the hunt for the perfect gift before Christmas. On the other hand, one in eight (12%) men wait until two days before Christmas before they do the same and a further one in 14 hold off until Christmas Eve.

Purchasing multiple presents and party outfits before Christmas to then return unwanted items was a tactic favoured by many, with a third (35%) of women predicted to buy up to six outfits online with the intention of returning their least favourite items.

The research highlights a major shift from the in-store ‘try, buy and return’ process to a system of ‘multiple buy, try and return’. The growing convenience of returning online purchases at convenient Post Office branches or drop-off points has given consumers the freedom to return or exchange items swiftly while simultaneously continuing with the remainder of their Christmas preparations – and even being refunded in time for a last-minute splurge.

Paul Brown, Post Office head of mails, said: “Christmas shopping is easier than it’s ever been and this now includes returning online purchases. With consumers saving an average of five hours shopping online this year, the benefits of technology need to be matched by an easy returns process.

“The real benefit of easier returns is that they allow shoppers the freedom to change their mind without being out of pocket. That means that many can even squeeze in another round of shopping before Christmas – be that online or on our vibrant high streets.

“As the UK’s largest retail network, we’re making it even easier for people to visit our branches this Christmas, whether sending gifts and cards to family and friends or returning online orders. This festive season is the first for 150 new Post Office drop-off points across the UK, adding to our branches which are offering an extra 90,000 extra opening hours a week, with over 2,000 branches open on Sundays.”

As well as improving access and convenience across the UK, the Post Office’s online offering has also been kicked up a festive notch. Helpful information from how to find your nearest branch, a Christmas countdown to the last posting dates, details of special promotions and much more can be found at www.postoffice.co.uk/christmas.

The Post Office is currently making a multi-million pound investment programme across its branch network. Over 3,500 branches across the UK have already been modernised, with many offering extended opening hours.

The Post Office, now independent of Royal Mail, is the largest retail network in the UK with over 11,500 branches. It is also one of the UK’s fastest growing financial services companies and is the market leader for travel money.