German serial-returners returned 487 million items in 2018

May 9, 2019 by
Romy Piepenbrock

GermanyGerman serial-returners returned 487 million goods last year. This comes from the study of a research team from the University of Bamberg who researched the return behaviour of German consumers in 2018.

The study concludes that German consumers are increasingly embracing the serial-returns culture. Serial-returners are shoppers who regularly buy and return items. The research shows that Germans returned 280 million packages and 487 million items last year. This comes down to the Germans returning every sixth item they have purchased.

According to Björn Asdecker, one of the researchers, this behaviour results in an estimated total cost of 5.46 billion euros. He says both the customers and the retailers suffer the consequences. The return costs will carry customers through higher market prices and burden the margins of e-commerce retailers. The returns also have a negative impact on the environment. This impact is estimated at 2200 car trips a day from Hamburg to Moscow or 238,000 tonnes of CO2 last year.

The reality of returns

The study concludes by pointing to the reality of returns. Not all German serial-returners are aware of what happens to the many items that they return. The truth is that some items can not be sold again after a shopper has returned them, therefore those items have to be binned. The research shows that 4% of the returned items go straight in the garbage.

Luckily, this is not the case with most items. The vast majority (79%) of returns can be sold again as A-Grade, full-price items with a warranty. For another 13% of returns, retailers are able to sell the items again as B-Grade, discounted products which are subject to a full warranty. A small part of returns, 3%, are sold to industrial recyclers or donated to charities.


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