£1.5bn of Christmas orders are returned as delivery disruption meant 1000s of gifts missed Christmas


Post-Christmas returns for the first working day of the year were up over 25% on the same day last year, says the delivery expert ParcelHero. It says around £1.5bn worth of items are now winging their way back to retailers, mainly because they missed Christmas delivery. The usual Christmas delays were compounded by the impact of strikes in the traditional mail service, heavy snow and Covid chaos in China.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘It looks like Brits spent considerably less on presents this year. Figures from YouGov indicate planned spending on gifts fell from an average of £388 to £300. However, our overall Christmas budgets stayed relatively level, due to the increased cost of food, drink and post-pandemic parties.

‘Even with this fall in gift purchases, we’re still seeing a significantly higher number of returns being handled by courier networks than we did last year. The chief reason is undoubtedly the fact that many items failed to arrive in time for Christmas. Some retailers, such as Currys, dropped their traditional mail options to ensure timely deliveries but that created knock-on delays in the alternative courier networks.

‘In fact, with thousands of parcels still languishing in the system, many of us are still waiting for items to arrive ten days after Christmas. If that’s happened to you, don’t leave it too late to inform the seller your item has not arrived or they might refuse to reimburse you or send a replacement item. Then you may face a battle to get your money back.

‘The law states that goods must be delivered within 30 days, unless a specific time frame was agreed upon, such as a guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. However, we strongly advise everyone not to wait 30 days before contacting the retailer about a gift never arrived. Remember, you should contact the retailer, not their courier service. Until the item arrives safely with you, it’s the seller’s responsibility.

‘If your item was intended as a present, don’t be shy about asking for a full refund, rather than a replacement. Of course, sellers will try to steer you towards a replacement item, but you don’t have to agree to that. You are within your rights to cancel an item and get your money back if you don’t receive it within 30 days, or on the date of the “second chance” delivery if you have already complained.

‘If your items did successfully arrive, but you or the receiver simply didn’t like them, the good news is that many of our favourite retailers introduced special grace periods for Christmas gift returns.

‘For example, until 24 January, ASOS will accept returns for any item purchased between 14 November and 24 December. Likewise, until 31 January, Amazon will replace or refund items purchased between 1 November and 31 December.

‘However, not all stores are as relaxed about return dates. For example, Harvey Nichols’ deadline for refunding gifts purchased between 8 November and 23 December is this Friday, 6 January.

‘Selfridges’ customers have already run out of time for Christmas gift returns. The grace period for gift receipts ended on 3 January for all items bought between 13 November and 6 December. It told us: “For anything purchased after 6 December, the normal 28-day returns policy applies.” That would mean, for example, that an item purchased on 20 December would need to be returned by 17 January.

‘Finally, shoppers returning unwanted goods must be aware that certain items need special extra packaging. TVs or microwaves, for example, are frequently delivered using the retailer’s or manufacturer’s specialist service, with vehicles designed for carrying such items. The original packaging supplied works perfectly for specially designed vehicles but probably won’t be adequate to withstand the demands of a busy courier network. We strongly recommend anyone returning a heavy item reads our guide to packaging and shipping heavy items.

‘For more information on returning large and heavy items see: https://www.parcelhero.com/en-gb/courier-services/large-and-heavy-parcels