Many happy returns

A photo of Priority Mail boxes

With peak season over, the Postal Service is now handling the rush of customers returning holiday gifts through the mail.

Approximately 30 percent of items bought online during the holidays will be returned, according to data from Shopify, a company that provides online shopping platforms for retailers. That figure goes up to 50 percent for “expensive” items.

To help these customers, USPS is continuing to expand its returns processing capabilities, which include more than 16,700 return delivery units across the nation.

The Postal Service also offers insurance of up to $5,000 for returns and has enhanced its Merchandise Return Service, which applies to three mail classes: First-Class Package Service, Priority Mail and Ground Return Service.

“We have the most extensive and best last-mile network, which is conducive to our customers utilizing us for easy returns,” said Delivery Operations Vice President Kevin McAdams. “So as e-commerce continues to grow, so does the returns business — and we provide the easiest, most convenient solution for those returns.”

The growth in the returns market is part of a broader shipping increase: USPS expected to deliver more than 900 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, up from 850 million during the same time one year earlier.

The rise in shipping is being driven by major increases in online holiday shopping.

Pre-Christmas online sales rose 19.1 percent from the 2017 holiday season, according to Mastercard Market Insights, an industry research service.

The holiday package returns business is likely to keep pace with the growth of online holiday shopping for the time being.

“Unless retailers implement a policy of ‘keep the products’ while refunding money, or eliminating free returns, product returns will have to increase in relation to the total sales of products,” said Brittain Ladd, an online commerce and supply chain analyst.