As the U.S. endures an economic downturn, both consumers and retailers are feeling the heat. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the economy shrank for the second straight quarter this year, raising alarm bells that a recession is likely on the horizon.1 These fears are further magnified by their proximity to the holiday season—a time notorious for big consumer discounts and even bigger retail profits. So, how are both parties bracing for economic impact? And in what ways can retailers get ahead of buyer demands without risking revenue this holiday? Keep reading for key insights to recession-proof returns from our latest data report.

Understand Retailer and Consumer Concerns

When it comes to holiday shopping, consumers already have inflation and a potential recession on their minds. In fact, 67% of U.S. consumers are already somewhat concerned with how inflation will impact their holiday spending, with more than a quarter of that crowd being very concerned.

This worry is also shared across income brackets, meaning consumers are taking this into consideration regardless of how much money they make. Due to these financial constraints, 46% of consumers are planning to start holiday shopping earlier than last year – and retailers should take note if they want to capture buyer attention before they’ve ceased spending for the season.

Deck the Halls with Big Demands 

Despite planning to shop earlier and spend less during the holidays, consumer expectations of what retailers should offer only seem to be increasing. They demand that retailers not skip a beat, even through this tumultuous period.

When asked what mattered most to them during holiday shopping, consumers expressed both finding an item for the best price AND free shipping as their #1 priorities. Subsequently, free returns and easy exchanges ranked as crucial criteria in their purchasing decisions.

Consumers have become increasingly accustomed to “fast and free” returns policies—anything less than that, the policy is at risk of being deemed “bad.” The biggest detractors from a returns experience, according to consumers, are:

  • Charging for returns (57%)
  • Refunding with store credit only (56%)
  • Having no return policy at all (54%)
  • Having too short of a returns window (37%)
  • Not offering exchanges (35%)

So, how can brands harness these expectations to attract and, more importantly, retain customers to weather the financial storm through the holidays and beyond?

Get Ahead of the Recession-Ridden Holiday

Though it may sound counterintuitive, strong returns processes can be the revenue and retention gift that keeps on giving. For every holiday shopper’s wish, we’ve devised a recession-conscious returns strategy to both address the customer need while protecting retailer’s precious profits.

  • Holiday Shopper Wish #1: Free returns
  • Recession-Conscious Returns Strategy: Third party drop-off locations


  • Holiday Shopper Wish #2: Fast and free exchanges
  • Recession-Conscious Returns Strategy: Instant exchanges 


  • Holiday Shopper Wish #3: More in-stock items and faster restocking
  • Recession-Conscious Returns Strategy: Automated returns processing


For details on bringing these strategies to life, download our report now to help recession-proof returns → [INSERT DOWNLOAD NOW GOLD BLOCK AND INSERT LINK]


In conclusion, retailers need to have good returns policies and processes in place to help meet customer expectations AND manage costs at the same time. As shipping costs increase, retailers can start using returns as a way to make up for that lost revenue spent on free and fast shipping, especially since it’s clearly so important to consumers and their purchasing decisions.

Need help implementing these strategies to recession-proof returns this holiday? Request a demo with the returns experts at Optoro.



  1. US economy shrinks for a 2nd quarter, raising recession fear. The Associated Press, July 2022
  2. Returns Strategies to Help Retailers Combat the Recession.” Optoro, August 2022