The Best Return Policy? Clamping Down May Not Always Be the Answer

Lady passing over a debit/credit card

No retailer likes taking returns. Yet in 2015, $260.5 billion of merchandise was returned to U.S. stores, reports the National Retail Federation. To keep your store’s share of that to a minimum, you may have instituted a pretty strict return policy. Even large retailers like REI or Costco, with their famously lenient policies, have been tightening them up.

But now research has uncovered some counterintuitive connections between a store’s return policy and its customers’ behavior. The Journal of Retailing published a study of 21 studies on the effect of lenient return policies on, first, the number of purchases customers make and, then, on subsequent returns. Ryan Freling and his fellow researchers at UT Dallas found that lenient policies do tend to increase the number of purchases that people make. And to a smaller but still significant degree, they also increase the number of returns.

But “lenient” can mean many things, and when it came to leniency in time, the longer time frame a store allowed for returning a purchase, the less likely customers were to ever actually return it. The psychology at work will probably feel familiar: When something has a tight deadline, a task seems not just more urgent, but more concrete. With a longer time frame, we feel far less pressure to actually do something about it. And, researchers have concluded, the longer you own something, the more it starts to feel as if it’s yours.

Tip for retailers: Freling said the study shows that return policy leniency should depend on the storeowner’s objectives. If a retailer wants to stimulate purchases, offering return policies that are more lenient in terms of giving full money back, say, or are no hassle for the customer because they don’t insist on an original receipt or product tags, may be effective. If you want to curb returns, longer deadlines to make a return would be more effective.

Creatas-ThinkstockPhotos-76800200_R1About That Tax Refund

Another way to show your staff you care

Small employers often can’t afford fancy employee benefits and contribute to 401(k) plans for their staff. But here’s a way you can help encourage a savings habit in your young staff and show you care about their financial future. SaveYourRefund ( is offering all tax filers 18 and older who put $50 of their tax refund into a qualified savings account the chance to win a $100 prize.

To enter, you must use IRS Form 8888 to direct part of your refund to a savings account, certificate of deposit, IRA, prepaid card, savings bond or TreasuryDirect account. Check the website for weekly deadlines and official rules of the contest:

Entrants can also put their names into a contest for a grand prize of $25,000 by submitting a photo of their savings goal or motivation. Download promotional materials from×11-2016-2.pdf, and get the whole staff involved.

moodboard-ThinkstockPhotos-452417441_R1Creating Product Shots That Sell

Make your DIY shots social-media ready.

Beautiful product shots are a must when you want to bring people to your store via your social-media posts. You need to show off how gorgeous those new arrivals really are. But too often, our DIY shots are disappointing—even off-putting. To improve your results, Shopify has published some helpful tips from product-image-editing service Pixelz. By streamlining your product photography, you’ll get polished, professional results without wasting time or money.

The first step, according to Pixelz, is to prepare a “shot list” with all the products you’re shooting: On a spreadsheet, list each product, the features that need to be highlighted (like embroidery or other selling details the photographer may not be aware of); whether the product will be shot as a laydown on a flat surface, or will be worn; what model or mannequin will be used; and practical details, like whether you have the product on hand or the color choice you want to show. The list will make your photo shoot more efficient—even if you’re the one doing the shooting.

Then there’s styling, which is “much more than coming up with attractive wardrobe combinations or creative props,” writes Pixelz CEO Thomas Kragelund. If you’re shooting apparel on a model or mannequin, you’ll need to use clips, pins and garment tape to create a flattering fit, he points out.

For more tips on creating images that sell, see Visit for DIY ideas, like using windows to light your photo shoot and preparing your products like a pro. And if you want to see whether professional image-editing could up your game, Pixelz offers a free trial, plus a pay-as-you-go service at $1.45 per image. You upload your images
online, with a 24-hour turnaround.


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