Welcome to retail returns season: the time of year when ugly sweaters, problematic consumer electronics, noisy toys, and ill-fitting shoes make their way back to retailers and manufacturers with few or no questions asked. This season in particular will bring higher return rates due to record-breaking online spending (ecommerce return rates are double that of brick and mortar stores) and heightened consumer expectations of relaxed cross channel returned policies (88% of shoppers review a retailer’s return policy throughout their shopping experience).

Before the rush of returns hits, here are five things you should know:

Need more info on that last bullet? In a recent eMarketer article, B-Stock’s CEO, Howard Rosenberg explained how retailers now tend to push more returned goods toward liquidation rather than processing back on shelf. And – when done right – an online marketplace dynamic can fetch 30% to 80% more than traditional liquidation methods. This can make a big difference to margins, post holiday and all year round.

Let’s be honest, unless you have a zero-returns policy – which in today’s retail environment is unlikely – there is no hiding from holiday returns. But, by applying fresh thinking to how you handle them, returns can become a strategic asset rather than a dreaded post-holiday afterthought.

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