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How to Turn Holiday Returns Into More Revenue

holiday-returnsIt’s that time of year again, when small-business owners far and wide dread the sight of dissatisfied-looking people toting logo-bearing bags. Returns can be time-consuming, as the time spent with the customer is for naught if their purchases are returned.

Of course, they’re also disappointing, as no business owner likes to see their revenues shrink. They can also be costly for retailers who cannot resell opened products. But, savvy small-business owners know that if the cards are played correctly, returns can be turned into sales, which can offset their impact or even result in a net gain.

Lend an Ear

When making returns, most customers feel compelled to explain why they’re doing so. A jacket may be the wrong size, a gadget received as a gift may be lacking a crucial feature, or perhaps they received a kitchen gizmo that they already own three of. Whatever the case may be, smart business owners know that listening to the reasons clients give for making returns is a crucial part of turning them into sales. Where there’s a problem, there’s a solution. And as a business owner, it’s your job to figure out what that solution is.

Be a Problem-Solver

If a clothing item is the wrong size or style, present the customer with alternative options. Perhaps a medium would be a better fit? Maybe the next model up would have the features they’re looking for? If a salad-spinner would only take up space in their kitchen, what about a new juicer? If you can find a solution that your customer finds enticing, they just might go for it.

If you’re offering something they’ve been interested in purchasing anyway, pulling the trigger will be easier for them to rationalize, as they’re already in your store and their returned item will give them credit toward something they really want.

Offer In-Store Credit

If the customer can’t decide on what they’d like to exchange their item for, you can always provide them with the opportunity to return at a later date with store credit. Some customers will prefer cash, but others will be pleased with a gift card, knowing that if they take the cash, it will probably be spent on necessities. With store credit, they can find themselves something they really want, which is much better than having to admit to the gift-giver that they returned their present for cash and have nothing to show for it.

Don’t Take It Personally

As a small-business owner, you might be disappointed when a customer returns a large purchase and is uninterested in exchanges or store credit, but don’t let them know that. If you accommodate returns with grace, your customers will leave with a good impression of you and your business, if nothing else. And the next time they’re in the market for your offerings, your business will likely be their first stop.


John R. Klaras is a serial entrepreneur and small business professional, a writer, and an educator by trade. With nearly a decade of experience in the telecommunications industry, he is currently in the process of building a burgeoning new microbusiness. He has written for leading companies in a wide variety of verticals, including travel, finance, motorsports, and real estate.