The jeans are torn, the fridge is slowly giving up its spirit – and now it’s time to finally bring some color to the living room. However, most stores must remain closed during the Corona crisis. Clothing, electrical appliances and furniture can only be purchased online. Online orders have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to a survey by the University of Bamberg among 103 online retailers in Germany, 17.4 percent more items were shipped between March and August last year than in the same period last year. For the whole year, scientists expect an increase of more than 25 percent. “As bitter as it is, Corona was lucky for my (…) company,” says the businessman in the study.
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Although significantly more packages were sent, relatively few returned. The rate of return among the surveyed retailers fell from 17.8 to 15.9 percent in the same period.
315 million packages in Germany
The number of package inspections remains high and due to the Corona package boom, it was also absolutely higher than in the previous year. According to the original estimate, 315 million packages were returned in Germany in 2020. According to scientists, in 2019 there were 301 million packages.
Retailers would benefit from “significantly low returns”, especially in the furniture and fashion sectors. According to the study, they sent 13.76 percent more fashion packages from March to August than in the same period last year, but received 6.32 percent less revenue. On average, those who ordered fashion had fewer articles sent, says Björn Asdecker, head of the research group. In particular, older customers, who usually prefer local shopping, would rarely return the package. Probably also because of concerns about coronary virus infection, as traders predict in the survey.
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In addition, many customers would be better informed in advance and purchased as needed. “We call it a development from ‘I want to have’ to ‘I need shopping’ now,” says Oliver Prothmann, president of the German Online Retail Association. “The buyer has a specific need, buys the product and uses it immediately.”
Better dumbbells than little black
According to the company, the courier company Otto received 30 percent more orders in 2020 compared to the previous year, while revenues fell by five percent. Instead of buying small black dresses for the (canceled) party, customers preferred to order dumbbells, says a company spokesman. Sales of home and fitness items increased by 200 percent, and hair and hair clippers by 300 percent. But returns? “Very rarely.”
In the corona year 2020, the volume of packages increased sharply, Tom Weller / DPA
In particular, larger retailers, such as Otto or Zalando, report declining yields, while small and small companies, according to a survey by the retailers’ association, have seen slightly more lock-in returns. The reason is “fun orders”, says a spokesman for the sellers’ association. Customers who shop online for the first time and who have returned fewer items are likely to order from reputable wholesalers, according to researchers in Bamberg. Smaller businesses may also have more supply problems. “Long delivery times provide higher returns, which is a well-documented effect,” says Asdecker.
Logistics capacities are insufficient
Many closed fashion stores have also considered sending goods in a pandemic, says Axel Augustin of the textile trade association. “But so many goods cannot be sold online.” The logistics department currently does not have the capacity to do so. “With a changing range and cost-effective links, transport is hardly useless.
That’s why winter goods accumulate in stores – and they lose value every day they close. “If all the shops in our branch are closed, ten million parts will remain every day,” Augustin calculates. Already in the spring, up to 300 million items remained in fashion stores. By the end of January, “a huge avalanche of half a billion unsold fashion items is accumulating,” trade associations for textiles, footwear and leather goods warn.
“As long as traders get one euro for it, they will not destroy the goods,” Augustin said. Instead, traders hope to sell winter goods at a discount in February or store them for next season.
“Of course, people will shop in stores as soon as possible,” said a spokesman for the German Association for E-Commerce and Shipments. “But we anticipate that many people will continue to buy everyday goods online before having to go around the city with them.” Bamberg researchers also believe that many customers will stay with online retailers. However, if they shop online less when they need to, and more according to their mood, the number of returns could increase again. (DPA)