UPS expects to handle 8.75 million returns during the week of Jan. 4, 2021, a 23% rise from the highest volume return period in the 2019 peak-season cycle, according to Freight Waves. The surge is being attributed to the high number of ecommerce orders during the holiday season, along with the abundance of return options retailers are using to help manage traffic and let shoppers make returns safely.
UPS expects return volumes to be distributed evenly throughout the week rather than concentrated on one or two days. An estimated 1.75 million returns have entered the carrier’s system every day from Jan. 4 through Jan. 8, and traffic is expected to remain elevated into next week.
The pandemic has made consumers more open to alternative return options. Prior to the COVID outbreak, two-thirds of shoppers preferred store returns, and only one-third scheduled returns with a shipping company, according to data from Optoro. A follow-up survey in October 2020 found that 60% of consumers had started using shipping companies to return items.
“With the rise of ecommerce, returns are becoming a more consequential factor in a consumer’s decision about where to spend their dollars, and we’re seeing more consumers checking return policies and options before they even make a purchase,” said Tobin Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of Optoro in comments cited by UPS.