New research has laid bare the true impact of the cost of living crisis as retailers report a 63% increase in false returns and consumers admit to sending items back after being hit by post-purchase guilt.

Advanced Supply Chain Group (ASCG) teamed-up with Sapio Research to survey 1,000 consumers and 100 retailers about how the cost of living crisis is affecting non-essential shopping.

The survey revealed that 60% of shoppers admit to indulging in retail therapy to escape the doom and gloom of rising living costs – yet 41% have been hit with ‘shopping guilt’ for treating themselves.

42% of retailers believe shoppers are sending impulse purchases back after realising they can’t afford them, with post-purchase remorse leading to a spike in returns.

Along with a growing volume of returns, retailers reported a rise in false returns. An increasing number of disingenuous reasons are being used when items are sent back. Consumers suffering shopping guilt don’t always return products unused or unworn, creating additional challenges and costs for retailers.

Growth in returns is also being driven by a trend of trading down. Consumers are trying cheaper products to save money but finding their alternative choices don’t always meet their usual standards and expectations.

The rise in products being sent back, including false returns, is forcing retailers to put new policies in place to combat the problem. However, they are still reluctant – and unsure – about whether to charge customers for returns.

Charges may help to offset costs and margin dilution, and they may help to discourage high volumes of goods being sent back by shoppers who regularly, and repeatedly, buy and return in large quantities. But how would this affect overall sales? Are shoppers prepared to pay for returns?

Find out answers to these questions and more in our recent eBook. It focuses on what consumers want from returns policies and shares further data and insights from our research.

Click here to download a copy.