Amazon gets more free with free returns
Amazon is expanding its free returns policy to include electronics, pet supplies, household items, kitchen appliances and more. Previously, only apparel, footwear and bedding were eligible.
In a statement, Amazon said the expansion is made possible as its logistics network continues to grow, “enabling delivery and returns at even faster speeds, and to the most convenient locations.”
Amazon counts more than 18,000 physical return points across the U.S., including Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star stores, Amazon Hub locations, Kohl’s, select Whole Foods and UPS. These include 5,800 locations that accept label-free and box-free returns that are sustainability-friendly and require no label printing or packing for customers.
Overall, the service promises “at least one free option.” Returners log in online and are given at least one location within five miles of their delivery address to send back the item for free. The item must weigh less than 50 pounds.
Under Amazon’s return policy, eligible items must be returned within 30 days of purchase, but during the holidays, purchases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 31.
Rolling electronics and appliances into the free returns mix could bump gift shoppers in the direction of Amazon this holiday and away from retailers like Best Buy that sometimes charge restocking fees. Encouraging consumers to return items to physical places may also drive cost savings as Amazon cuts down returns by mail.
However, the main reason Amazon appears to be extending “free returns” is because an easy return policy provides more confidence in making an online purchase and supports customer loyalty.
A risk, according to Joel Rampoldt, a managing director at AlixPartners, is that Amazon will have to absorb the increased costs involved in sorting, repackaging and sometimes throwing out returned items should friendlier policies drive higher return rates. Mr. Rampoldt told MarketWatch, “Returns are expensive. Not in the transport, but in what has to happen next.”
- Amazon Makes Returns Even Easier This Holiday with Free Returns on Millions of Items – Amazon
- Amazon expands free return policy to ‘millions of items’ – The Verge
- Everything You Need to Know About Best Buy’s Holiday Return Policy – Yahoo Finance
- The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers – RetailWire
- CBRE Forecasts Online Returns Could Total As Much As $41.6 Billion This Holiday Season – CBRE
- More online sales mean retailers need to solve a $50 billion returns problem this holiday season – CNBC
- Amazon new free returns add convenience but sending things back shouldn’t be too easy, experts say – MarketWatch
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Amazon gain much of a competitive advantage by expanding its free returns policy? Will its many drop-off points mitigate the risks involved in the cost of returns? Should competitors respond?