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How free returns on online purchases are crippling retailers

Well-intentioned holiday gift-giving means there will be plenty of holiday returns. While shoppers used to head back to the stores to exchange those presents for something they really want, many will be sending their returns back the way they were purchased: through e-commerce channels.

Americans return more than $260 billion in goods each year, according to data provided by Optoro, a logistics company that helps retailers with returns and excess inventory. Nearly a quarter of those returns occur over the holidays, for a total of $69 billion in merchandise. Last year, about 80% of consumers who returned items returned clothing and accessories, according to a recent Optoro survey.

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