- UPS projects returns will peak on Jan. 2 with 1.9 million returns, representing a 26% bump from the peak return day in 2018, according to a press release.
- Returns volume before Christmas day will be even more intense in aggregate, however, with UPS projecting 1.6 million returns per day in the week preceding the holiday.
- "Gone are the days where returns were isolated to January – today’s empowered consumers will be sending packages back to retailers all season long," Kevin Warren, UPS' chief marketing officer, said in a statement, warning retailers to be prepared for this new normal.
Last year, UPS projected returns would peak on Dec. 19. The pre-Christmas peak in 2018 raised eyebrows, Jim Brill, product marketing manager for the UPS Returns Portfolio, told sister publication Supply Chain Dive in January. He confirmed UPS' prediction was right on target — the carrier received 1.6 million returns on Dec. 19, beating expectations by 0.1 million parcels.
For 2019 peak season, the date of "National Returns Day," as UPS calls it, may have shifted back to after Christmas Day, but the bulk of the volume is still before the big day. The carrier projects more than one million returns per day from December into early January with the pace nearly doubling in the week up to Christmas. The change demonstrates how ingrained the behavior of returns is in the culture of e-commerce shoppers today.
Brill said the shift may be evidence that retailers' attempts to shift purchasing volume earlier and spread it out over time between Black Friday and Christmas using discounts and deals is working. It's also evidence that shoppers are taking advantage of holiday promotions, UPS confirmed in its release.
A seamless returns process is essential in today's retailer climate, said Warren.
In a UPS survey, 68% of respondents agreed the returns experience shapes their overall perceptions of a retailer. UPS and FedEx have amped up their digital returns programs for shippers. Plus carriers, retailers and new players (like Happy Returns) are getting in position to accept e-commerce returns anywhere and everywhere.
To date, UPS' network allows customers to pick up or drop off parcels at 38,000 locations worldwide including Michael's stores, CVS pharmacies and Advance Auto Parts locations. FedEx returns are accepted at Walgreens, Dollar General, Kroger and Albertson's.
To handle returns, UPS is in the midst of its usual peak season hiring frenzy. The carrier announced in September plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers. It held its one-day hiring blitz on Friday with plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers that day.