According to statistics, at least $45 billion worth of gifts are returned or exchanged after the holidays each year. Clothes, apparel and shoes are in the top position. Toys and electronics come in second and third. It is suspected that electronics will be the most returned item by January 2014. Jewelry returns come in last position. Incidentally, all returns combined represents only about 10% of all purchases.
A January 2011 Market Tools survey reported the following rates of returns: 62% of respondents indicated they returned clothing and shoes. Toys, games and hobbies, 16%. Electronics, 14%. Kitchen and bath, 13%. Beauty and cosmetics, 10%. Jewelry and watches, 10%.
Only about 20% of Holiday gift recipients admit to receiving something they did not need or did not like. Of these, when asked what they did with such gifts, 10% returned the item for a credit or exchange. The majority donated the gift to a charitable organization (Goodwill) or said they waited a few months for an occasion to re-gift outside of the family or friend network the gift came from originally. A minority of people confessed that they attempted to resell the gift.
A wise person in our entourage once suggested that just as we let go of a gift the moment we give it, we must let go of the consequences. According to a 2011 American Express survey, when asked how they feel about the prospect of one of their gifts being returned or otherwise recycled, the majority of respondents indicated they were not concerned about that.
Bear in mind that the majority of post-holiday consumer behavior surveys take place in malls and other large-surface establishments, since these offer a large sample in one place. Which immediately brings a question to mind: What is the rate of returns on custom designed and unique artisan jewelry?
I suspect it is incredibly low. While this suspicion is not based on scientific evidence, a few simple observations instruct this claim: People who purchase custom jewelry usually have a clear knowledge of the character and tastes of the person they have in mind when gift shopping. If you are buying jewelry for someone, chances are your connection to that person is deep at some level.
Also, buying fine jewelry is like buying fine art (it is buying fine art); it is an experience that is totally different from buying any other item. Perhaps there is a sort of sacredness to the very process of choosing a special piece at the master jeweler’s shop. It lends to that piece a unique presence; a status of its own.
Some experts say that reducing the chances of your carefully selected gifts being returned is an easy task. Unless you know the recipient very well (or have checked with someone who does) steer clear of the most returned items: clothing and apparel. Unlike jewelry, clothing that does not fit right or that is not the right color can make someone feel they do not look good. Fine jewelry, however, is uplifting by nature.