Holiday Returns and Year-End Headaches

Christmas has passed but not all the returns have been finished. Dad’s khaki slacks were too baggy. The sleeveless blouse was a tad too revealing for sister’s corporate bank job. Brother was hoping for the Samsung Android smartphone, not the Apple tablet.

As whiny as these remarks may sound, the aforementioned comments are representative of those echoing worldwide… particularly during the holiday season. Their intent is not to be ungracious or ungrateful. But, realistically, when clothes are neither appropriate nor well-fitting, or when new devices are not compatible with our existing technology network, something needs to happen.

Ah, returns.

Billions of dollars are spent yearly during the holiday season.  Just see the accompanying graphic with historical data from  Secure, digital e-commerce platforms have made it easier to confidently procure goods online, yet it doesn’t necessarily mean returning unwanted items are as stress-free.


Consider the “analog” shopping experience:




  1. Drive or walk to the local retail shopping area, enter store, attentively peruse a variety of merchandise keeping in mind the wants and needs of loved ones.
  2. Thoughtfully select the perfect gift
  3. Execute purchase
  4. Need to return? Circle back to store, exchange gift or receive refund.


Sure, you left the comfort of your home to purchase the gift but the return was almost as easy and swift as the initial purchase.  Not necessarily so with the online experience. Here’s the digital experience:

  1. Open device of your choice, attentively search through a variety of merchandise keeping in mind the wants and needs of loved ones.
  2. Thoughtfully select the perfect gift
  3. Click to purchase
  4. Need to return? Navigate to the retailer site, fill out a form or two, locate a box for purchase (remember, you ruined the box in the excitement of uncovering the perfect purchase), find a or print a shipping label, repackage the purchase, drive to either USPS, USPS or the carrier of your choice, mail return.


The luxury of shopping at home, at any time of day or night is undeniable. But, a few caveats.

Firstly, you may be spending way more than you anticipated – a recent CNBC news piece cited a study which indicated that although internet shoppers had a good grasp of how much time they spent shopping, they actually spent double the amount of money they thought they had. Secondly, shoppers are parting with even more hard earned money than they thought.  Why? Online returns can be a real hassle. National Public Radio (NPR) and Marist College revealed in a 2018 poll that 91% of shoppers  never or rarely return items that have purchased online.

Courtesy Frank Ramspott/Getty Images / NPR

Also, it’s just too darn time consuming.

Ah, returns… and the reverse supply chain.

If you need help with your supply chain – reverse or otherwise – SDI is here to help.  We have a wide selection of supply chain and procurement offerings. Information on our solutions can be found here.