Newly Released Report Details Retail Returns in 2023

Scientific studies have shown that if you stop someone on the street and offer them free ice cream—with the choice of chocolate or vanilla—they gladly accept and no doubt remain happy for the rest of the afternoon. But if you give them 31 flavor choices, happiness proves elusive. That’s because entirely different brain chemistry is activated associated with the feeling of regret.

What better describes the glamorous and fickle world of fashion, where items that look so great on a catwalk, website or store shelf end up looking far less inspiring when taken home?

The latest report from the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail reveals the extent to which regret haunts the apparel industry as over $743 billion worth of merchandise was returned in 2023. For every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $145 million in merchandise returns, the report found. Online sales see a higher return rate, with 17.6 percent, or $247 billion of merchandise, returned to the source from whence it came. Moreover, in 2023 return fraud contributed $101 billion in overall losses for retailers, with every $100 in returned merchandise resulting in $13.70 lost to return fraud.

“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.”

“The continued growth of online channels has had a significant impact on retail sales and returns,” said Appriss Retail CEO Michael Osborne. ”One example is our tracking of claims and appeasements, which is a new category in online returns that covers reports for missed, late or damaged deliveries and is the fastest-growing category for return fraud.”

To view the full report, visit