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Retailers are focused on efforts to mitigate returns, as total returns for the industry amounted to $743 billion in merchandise in 2023, according to a recent report from the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail.  

As a percentage of sales, the total return rate for 2023 was 14.5%, meaning that for every $1 billion in sales the average retailer incurs $145 million in merchandise returns, the report said. 

Online sales do see a higher return rate, with 17.6% or $247 billion in merchandise purchased online returned. That compares to 10.02% for pure bricks-and-mortar returns (excluding online orders that are returned in-store), or $371 billion. 

“Retailers continue to test and implement new ways to minimize losses from returns, particularly those that are fraudulent, while at the same time optimizing the shopping experience for their customers,” said NRF Executive Director of Research Mark Mathews. 

“Retailers’ efforts include providing greater detailed descriptions on sizing and fit of products for online purchases and requiring a receipt with returned items. As a whole, the industry is prioritizing efforts to reduce the amount of merchandise returned in stores and online.” 

This year, return fraud contributed $101 billion in overall losses for retailers. For every $100 in returned merchandise, retailers will lose $13.70 to return fraud. 

Among the types of return fraud retailers say they have experienced in the past year, nearly half (49%) cited returns of used, non-defective merchandise, also known as “wardrobing,” and 44% cited the return of shoplifted or stolen merchandise. 

Over one-third (37%) said they experienced returns of merchandise purchased on fraudulent or stolen tender and one-fifth (20%) said they have experienced return fraud from organized retail crime groups. 

Go here to see review the 2023 report on returned merchandise.