Fayetteville-based Field Agent surveyed consumers on Christmas night to see how many planned to return at least one gift they received. About 30% of those surveyed planned to return or exchange at least one gift. The majority (86%) said they received merchandise they’d return or exchange in stores, compared to 35% who said they would make their exchange or return online or by mail.
In all, there were 435 respondents who planned to make returns. The most (46%) would be to Walmart, 26% to Target and 20% making returns to Kohl’s. The reasons they gave for the returns varied from wrong size (49%) to not needed (23%), and 30% who said they didn’t like the product.
Field Agent sought to see how well the three retailers served the customers making returns or exchanges in this survey. On Dec. 26, Field Agent followed gift recipients into stores and tracked their return experiences. In this sampling, consumers made returns to 23 Walmart stores, 12 Kohl’s stores and 9 Target stores.
The biggest headache consumers experience making returns after the holiday is the time spent standing in line. But by using technology and planning ahead the retailers were ready, according to the results. Field Agent timed how long customers spent during the entire return process. The average return at Target took 2.7 minutes from start to finish. At Walmart, the average return took 6.1 minutes. Kohl’s had the longest time at 9.4 minutes on average.
Field Agent said the average time at Kohl’s was hampered by a single return that took 34 minutes to complete. The median time for Kohl’s was 5.2 minutes, shorter than the median time at Walmart which was 6.2 minutes. Target had the shortest median time at 2.3 minutes. Field Agent said the average time to return an item by this consumer group was 6.3 minutes, which is shorter than the time many spend getting a coffee at their local drive-thru.
The survey also tracked the fastest and slowest returns at each of the three retailers. Walmart had the fastest single return at 44 seconds. Kohl’s fastest single return took 56 seconds while at Target the fastest was 1 minute. Kohl’s had the longest single return at 34 minutes, Walmart had a 24-minute return and 5 minutes was the longest at Target. The report indicates Target was the winner on time as one participant said her experience was “smooth and efficient.”
Time is important but so is the overall experience rating, which Field Agent measured in the survey. Field Agent asked gift-recipients to rate various dimensions of the return experience. All ratings were submitted on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being “excellent” and 1 “poor.”
“Target and Kohl’s were neck-in-neck for the best ratings. Target scored a 4.9, 4.9, and 4.8 on return/exchange friendliness of personnel, efficiency, and ease of use, respectively, compared to Kohl’s 4.6, 4.4, and 4.5,” according to Chris Mendenwald, the lead research analyst at Field Agent.
Field Agent said responses from Target and Kohl’s were positive mentioning “friendly and efficient customer service.” Walmart guests reported some mixed comments, but there were more positive than negative. The report said 78% of Walmart guests who made returns on Dec. 26 said it took less time than they expected. Just 8% said it took longer than expected. More than half (57%) said the experience was “easier than expected” while 17% said it was “harder than expected.”
Walmart devoted entire checkout lanes for returns to let customers make the returns the same way they checkout. This kept lines from stacking up at the customer service desk.