Post Office popular for returns because of its ease of access

July 2019


​​​​​​​Customers site their perferences for returning online purchased items 

  • Most items returned within a week but 57% can’t be bothered returning items
  • There is a willingness to pay for returns
  • 11% buy with intention to use and return

A UK wide survey by Whistl, the delivery management company, has found that the Post Office (44%) is the preferred way to return online purchases, followed by collection from work/ home (25%). Taking an item back to a physical store (17%) and Parcel Drop to a Collect + / myHermes partner (14%) were the other choices.

The popularity of using Parcel Drop was driven by the ease of use and better opening times than the Post Office. The Post Office was popular because of its ease of access. Collection from home and work was driven by the avoidance of travel and return to store was driven by convenience and no packing.

When looking at the type of items returned, collect from home was popular for electronic equipment, appliances and furniture; store return for toys and clothes and Parcel Drop for electronic accessories, garden and pet products.

Are customers willing to pay for Returns?

Respondents were asked about their willingness to pay for returns which could suggest there is scope for retailers to consider charging for returns if the purchase falls into one of the following categories:

Percentage Category
67% The delivery was free
49% Item was from an independent retailer
45% Discounted/ sale price
45% Bulky or heavy item
37% Purchase from abroad
33% Discontinued item
24% Purchased during peak sale periods

The price paid for the item does not appear to have an impact on the amount people are willing to pay for its return. However, the more they paid for the initial delivery, the higher the price customers are expecting to pay for the return. If customers get the item delivered for free most of them expect to be able to return it for free and the expectation of free delivery increases with age.

Looking at the time taken to return an item, most were returned within a week, but 57% of respondents had kept an unwanted item as it was too much trouble to return, with females (61%) more likely to keep items than men (54%).

Customer Reasons for Returning items

The most popular reasons for returning items were:

Percentage Reasons for returning
34% bought several sizes and colours of items with intention to return
25% bought more items than required to avoid delivery charges
17% use ‘try before you buy’
11% bought with the intention to use and return

The findings also show younger shoppers are most likely to return but income does not affect return behaviour.

Melanie Darvall, Director of Marketing and Communications, Whistl, said:

“With 11,500 branches across the UK it is understandable that the Post Office remains the most popular option for consumers returning unwanted goods, but consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and want more flexibility on the time of day when they can return items. We can see that Parcel Drop with partners such as Collect+/ myHermes will continue to increase over time due to their longer opening hours and convenient locations.

“An encouraging finding for online retailers is that consumers do not always want something for nothing and are willing to pay to return an item if it makes their life easier. Retailers should consider working with a partner who can develop a comprehensive returns policy that reflects the consumers’ attitude to payment for returns which may help maximise potential profit.”

Here is more advice on how to develop the right returns policy for your online business.

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