Now that retail stores have gotten past the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, a whole new time opens up.



The era of the return.



Retail stores across the nation will be hit with those who receive gifts that may not fit, or may not be just right for them.

Now that retail stores have gotten past the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, a whole new time opens up.

The era of the return.

Retail stores across the nation will be hit with those who receive gifts that may not fit, or may not be just right for them.

However, this is also the time of year when retailers have to be on the watch for potential fraud.

A recent study by the National Retail Federation (NRF) projected that the industry could lose an estimated $3.68 billion to return fraud during the holiday shopping season.

The types of fraud can range from returning stolen merchandise, which the NRF said 93.5 percent of retailers experienced last year.

There is also the process called ‘wardrobing’ which is the return of used, non-defective merchandise such as special occasion apparel and certain electronics. The study indicated that six in 10 retailers were victims of ‘wardrobing’ within the last year, which is an almost 20 percent increase over 2009.

Joe LaRocca, senior asset protection advisor for NRF, said that retailers struggle between providing customer service while prohibiting criminals from taking advantage of return policies, some of which can be viewed as lenient.

“Combating this very costly problem helps retailers keep prices low but can unfortunately involve establishing policies that inconvenience honest shoppers,” LaRocca said.

But, locally, Ashley Minton, store manager for Maurices, located in Meadowbrook Mall in Pittsburg, said that return fraud has not been a big issue and that starts with customer service.

“I think it really starts with great customer service, that way you know what customers are looking for and you can recognize when they bring something back,” Minton said.

She said that retailers should be in the habit of asking a lot of questions of customers when they are initially shopping. That can limit the amount of returns a store can see over the holiday season.

“We do ask a lot of questions,” Minton said. “You have to do that and ask who they are shopping for and what they are looking for. I can sell to a thousand me’s, but that sometimes really doesn’t help.”

The NRF said that, in a response to fraud, some retailers have adopted policies like requiring customers returning merchandise to show identification. The study showed that policy can reduce the amount of fraud retailers may see.

“A lot of retailers can lose track because it is so busy, but you have to take time to get to know customers,” Minton said. “That will help limit the actual returns that you can deal with.”