Convenience retailers who offer parcel services are battling against a frenzy of returns as shoppers splurge in the New Year sales.

British shoppers have collectively spent £9.1bn on updating their wardrobes for 2018 over the January sales period, yet over half (51%) say they’ll later be returning one of more of their purchases, according to new research from CollectPlus.

When it comes to sending back New Year purchases, 41% of shoppers are opting to return online purchases via a parcel delivery service, dropping them off at their nearest returns location, rather than taking them back to the store.

Half of them say this is because they prefer the convenience of returning items to a location near their homes, instead of using their lunch break or out of office hours to return items in-store.

Catherine Woolfe, marketing director at CollectPlus said: “As retailers continue to offer discounts and reduce old season stock to make way for the S/S 18 trends, there has been a big surge in shoppers snapping up sale items, yet it’s interesting to see how many items are also being returned.

“With over half of shoppers sending back items from their New Year fashion haul, we’re seeing more and more people use CollectPlus as a convenient option to return items at a time that fits in with their busy schedule.”

However, retailers are feeling the strain. Hiral Patel of Londis Claygate in Surrey said he often receives upwards of 30 parcels a day at the moment. “There are some benefits but some big burdens too. 

“The biggest issue is space. I’ve got one parcel behind the counter at the moment that’s enormous, it must have three boxes of shoes in it. The second biggest issue is tensions with customers. Customers don’t always understand how the service works. I’m just the middleman, I’m not Asos or Very, I’m not the person to complain to about issues but because I’m the person they see, it’s me that tends to get it when there’s a problem which isn’t nice.”

The high volume of returns doesn’t necessarily translate into higher in-store sales either, he says.

“The service definitely drives footfall but associated sales aren’t that high. I’d say that only one in five customers actually buy anything while they’re here,” he said.

Gareth Hooton, of Hooton’s News in Golborne, near Warrington, also said storage was an issue.

“The returns take time to process, especially in the run up to Christmas and the new year when we get a lot more to deal with but the commission of 35p isn’t bad compared to other services such as bill payments and top ups. Storage space is a problem though as some of the parcels can be huge and we do get a great many of them,” he added.

However, Manny Patel of Manny’s in Long Ditton Surrey decided to stop offering the CollectPlus service prior to Christmas because it was becoming “too much of a burden.”

“It was just taking up far too much time and just wasn’t worth the 35p commission,” he said.

“Storage was also becoming an issue. Customers were coming in with enormous parcels that needed returning, sometimes upwards of 20 a day, and we had to keep them until the van arrived to collect them.

“On some days we would literally have to turn parcels away because we had too many and then customers could become argumentative which wasn’t nice to deal with.

“I also did an analysis and realised that although the service was definitely driving footfall, it really wasn’t translating into sales. People were just dropping or collecting parcels and not shopping the store. There has been absolutely no change to sales since stopping the service,” he added.

CollectPlus claims that 40% of customers buy other products in the store when dropping off and collecting parcels and that the average amount a customer spends when picking up and dropping off parcels is £3.30.

In addition, 53% of CollectPlus customers dropping off or collecting parcels are visiting the store for the first time, it says.