Heading through 2024, retailers strive to keep returns at bay

David Petersen, vice president of marketing and sales at made-to-order furniture company Gat Creek, says the company just came off “our best year ever” after riding a backlog of post-COVID orders to wrap up 2023. 

Gat Creek sells mostly through distributors and other retailers — but also direct to consumers at its own ecommerce site, GatCreek.com. Meanwhile, at a time when retail order returns are robust throughout the retail industry, the furniture company is taking steps to ensure customers know what they’re ordering, warding off surprises at delivery time. 

Returns are less common in furniture sales than in other product categories. But Petersen has been selling furniture online since the 1990s. He says he learned years ago at another furniture seller who imported products for online sales the importance of mitigating returns through a mix of helpful online product content and tracking and managing deliveries to customers. 

“All of our products are viewable in 360-degree digital images and in the material finish of customers’ choice,” Petersen says, adding, “If someone decides to buy a piece of furniture from us, we’ll send them a real sample of the material before we put their order in the shop for production.”  

When returns occurred in the past because of faulty items shipped by a third party, Petersen has elicited feedback from customers on why they returned merchandise, and worked with the supplier to ensure it took proper steps in packing and shipping.  

“We kept close track of the things that were deficient and then worked on them with the supplier,” he says.  

Managing returns in retailing effectively is crucial to maintaining positive financial numbers and happy, loyal customers. At no time is this chore more vital to overall success than during and following the holiday shopping season.  

Holiday retail returns

Data from Appriss Retail shows that the holiday returns season — from Nov. 20, 2023, through Feb. 1, 2024 — crossed the $100 billion mark.

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