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Many happy returns - £223m* worth of Christmas gifts will be returned this year

23 December 2014
  • Shoppers urged to check store’s returns policies and their rights
  • Nearly one in ten (9%) Brits returned Christmas presents last year
  • £50 = average value of returned Christmas presents
  • 45% of those returning unwanted gifts in the past have been unsuccessful

£223m worth of unwanted Christmas gifts are set to be returned this year and Gocompare.com is urging people to check retailer’s returns policies before heading to the shops, as 45% of Brits who have tried to return gifts in the past said they had been unsuccessful.

The survey**, commissioned by Gocompare.com, questioned over 2,000 UK adults about unwanted Christmas presents.  It revealed that just under one in ten (9%) of Brits returned presents last year, worth on average £50. 

Over the years, 29% of shoppers say they have attempted to return a Christmas present.  While the main reasons for returning presents was to exchange them for a better fit or colour (45%) or simply because the recipient didn’t like what they had been given (40%), 12% said that they had returned a gift because they wanted the cash.  

When questioned about their experience in returning an unwanted gift:

  • 45% said that they have been unsuccessful;
  • 44% said that they have always been successful when returning presents;
  • A quarter said that they were told by the retailer that they couldn’t get a refund or exchange without a receipt;
  • 12% said that the retailer had told them they were beyond the time limit for returns;
  • 11% said that the shop had refused the return claiming that the item had been used or was damaged;
  • One in ten had been told that the retailer didn’t accept returns.

In addition, 38% of those surveyed said they have kept an unwanted Christmas present because they didn’t want to upset the person who gave it to them, while 17% did so because they didn’t think they could get a refund or exchange without a receipt. 

Only 16% of those surveyed said that they were always honest with the giver about returning gifts, 14% said that they tend to avoid the subject of unwanted presents while 9% admitted to lying to the giver about returning a gift.

The survey also revealed that only 8% of gift-givers always enclose a gift receipt in the presents they buy other people, 31% enclose a gift-receipt with some presents, while well over half (56%) of gift-givers never give receipts with presents.

Commenting on the research findings, Claire Peate, Gocompare.com’s customer insight manager said: “At some time in our lives, most of us have experienced that awkward moment of receiving a present which we either don’t like, doesn’t fit or we already have.  But, retailers are under no legal obligation to give a refund for unwanted gifts - unless they are faulty, not as described or unfit for purpose. 

“However, as a goodwill gesture, many high-street stores operate a ‘returns policy’ which allow you to exchange, or receive a refund, credit note or gift voucher for unwanted presents.  These policies typically require items to be in unused, perfect condition and sealed in their original packaging and exclude perishable items such as food and drink and specially commissioned or personalised gifts.  Shops generally impose a time limit within which you have to return items but, many extend this period to allow for Christmas.  You can find details of retailers’ returns policies on their till receipts, in-store signs and websites.” 

Claire Peate continued: “When returning unwanted presents most retailers will require you to produce a receipt as proof of purchase.  But, some will exchange items without one.  However, if the shop is having a sale when you return the item and you don’t have a receipt, you will probably only be refunded the current selling price.

“Any refund for unwanted gifts bought using a credit or debit card, will normally have to go back on the same card.  So, if you want to exchange your present for cash, you'll probably have to get the person who bought it for you to arrange a refund.”

-ends-

Notes to editors:

* From the survey, 9% said they returned a Christmas present last year.  According to the Experian Demographic Summary, the adult population (18 years old and over) = 47,755,246.  Therefore, 4,297,972 Brits returned a gift.   4.2m x £50 (average value of gifts returned last year) = £214,898,607 (rounded to £215m).  Mintel predicts this Christmas will see growth in non-food sales of 3.5%.  Therefore, we can assume the value of returns will increase by 3.5% too. £215m x 3.5% = £222.53m.

**On 8 December 2014 an online survey was conducted among 2,010 randomly selected British adults age 18+ who are also Springboard United Kingdom Community members. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current data on age, gender, region, and education from the most recent census data, to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of the UK. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.