11 Ways to Reduce Product Returns

Fashion products like jewelry have always suffered a higher rate of return than other products, yet the vast majority of returned jewelry has nothing wrong with it. Here are 11 tips to help reduce the number of products returned to your store.

1. Don’t stint on training. Sales training is more necessary today than during an economic boom. Salespeople need to know how to sell fashion-accessory jewelry, a far different task from selling a commodity made of metal and stones. They must learn how to listen to each customer so they can present suitable merchandise.

2. Sell right. Some shoppers can be persuaded to purchase an item that’s different from what they had in mind, but they may decide not to keep it. In the store, a shopper may be confused or lack information, so sales associates need to listen carefully to the customer, focus on the appropriate product features, and use lots of trial closes to make sure the customer doesn’t feel pressured.

3. Know your product, know your staff. Find out which product categories and which sales associates generate the most merchandise returns. Provide appropriate training.

4. Match jewelry to buying signals. If a piece of jewelry is meant for a gift, the buyer’s motives may depend on his or her perception of the recipient’s approach to fashion. A ring sold as a gift for a mother should be positioned differently if proposed as a gift for a wife. Sales associates must know how to match a shopper’s buying signals to the right type of jewelry.

5. Match selections to budgets. This is tricky because some people will surprise you with how much money they’re willing to spend. But a big sale is all for naught if it’s returned.

6. Encourage self purchasers to wear their new jewelry out of the store. Alternatively, a salesperson should help the customer project how she’ll feel once she does wear her new jewelry.

7. Reevaluate best-selling merchandise. Shop competitors to get a better idea of what’s moving and what’s sitting. Stocking product that best fulfills the customer’s true desires—and matches her fashion tastes and preferences—is the best way to combat returns.

8. Keep best sellers in stock. Substitutes can expose your store to returns, so expedite reordering all best sellers and get the product priced and displayed as soon as possible. Renegotiate with vendors so best sellers can be reordered without meeting a minimum.

9. Improve visual displays. Displays should engage shoppers and help them find the jewelry they’re naturally drawn to. Make featured items “pop” with excitement by using fixtures and props that add current fashion colors to the display.

10. Make follow-up calls. Sales associates should call customers a few days after a sale, and they should feel the same excitement they felt when they sold the product. Have them ask where the customer has worn the jewelry. Once family and friends see the customer wearing the jewelry, she’s less likely to return it. Enthusiasm blunts buyer’s remorse.

11. Review return policies. But make changes slowly. To change from 30 days to 10, consider going to 20 days for a few months first. Consider offering exchanges only—no cash returns. Communicate return policies to buyers before completing transactions, which shows you’re ethical and want a mutually beneficial relationship. Teach sales associates to present return policies in a manner that conveys confidence and implies that the customer won’t have problems with them.