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£207m* worth of unwanted Christmas presents expected to be returned

14 December 2015
  • 10% of Brits returned Christmas presents last year;
  • Returned gifts cost on average £39.50;
  • A third of people have been unsuccessful in returning unwanted presents.

While many people returning unwanted gifts (58%) had been successful, a third had experienced problems.  The main (19%) difficulty experienced when returning an unwanted gift was being told that the retailer didn’t accept returns without a receipt.  Other issues included being told they’d waited too long to return the item (8%), that the retailer didn’t accept returns (8%) and the shop claimed the goods had been used or damaged (6%).

A quarter of people surveyed, who also celebrate Christmas, said that they were always honest with the gift-giver about returning the gift, 15% had ducked or avoided the subject, 9% admitted to lying about returning a gift. 39% of those who did not return an unwanted gift said they kept the present because they didn’t want to upset the gift-giver.

The ‘Unwanted Christmas Present’ survey also asked respondents whether they include gift receipts with the presents they give to other people.  Only 10% said they enclose gift receipts with all the presents they give, 35% enclose them with some gifts, just over half (52%) of respondents said they never give receipts with presents.

Matt Sanders, spokesman for Gocompare.com commented, “While retailers are not legally obliged to accept returns for non-faulty goods, most do so as a good-will gesture – offering an exchange, refund, credit note or gift vouchers in exchange for the unwanted item.   However, the returned item must be in unused, perfect condition, sealed in its original packaging.  Returns policies usually exclude perishable items such as food and drink and, specially commissioned or personalised gifts.

“Retailers’ returns policies are usually shown on shop till receipts, signs and websites.  Retailers typically impose a time limit for returning non-faulty items but many shops are happy to extend this period for Christmas gifts.”

Matt Sanders continued: “When returning unwanted gifts most retailers will require you to produce a receipt as proof of purchase – which is why gift receipts are particularly useful.  However, some retailers will exchange items without one.  But, if the shop where you are returning the gift to is having a sale and you don’t have a receipt to prove the amount paid for the item, you’ll probably only be refunded the current selling price.

“Refunds for unwanted gifts bought using a credit or debit card will normally be credited back to the same card.  So, if you wish to exchange your present for cash, you will have to ask the gift-giver to arrange a refund.”

Top 5 tips on returning unwanted Christmas gifts from respondents to Gocompare.com’s ‘Unwanted Christmas Present’ survey:

  1. Research the company’s policy on returns (47%)
  2. Be confident and firm with staff (45%)
  3. Know what outcome you want before you start (40%)
  4. Ask the gift-giver if they can give you the receipt (37%)
  5. Plan your approach before you go into the shop (36%)

Gocompare.com has produced a guide with information on consumer rights and refunds

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

*Basis of £198m calculation: 10% of those surveyed said they returned a Christmas present last year.  Adult population 48,913,000 (source: Annual mid-year population estimate for the UK 2014).  Therefore, 4,891,300 Brits returned a gift.   4.89m x £39.50 (average value of gifts returned last year) = £193,206,350 (rounded to £193m).  Mintel predicts total UK retail sales growth of 2.5% in December 2015. Therefore, we can assume the value of returns will increase by 2.5% too. £193m x 2.5% = £197.8m rounded to £207m.