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Holiday Shoppers Show Increased Remorse

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY (TheStreet) -- Not every holiday purchase is a pleaser. In fact, for a myriad of reasons, holiday purchases are getting returned--and earlier--in record numbers. About 10 cents on every dollar purchased during the holiday season is returned...yet the chance of returns (and its eventual impact on the bottom line) is hardly mentioned in holiday shopping coverage of retailers from Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) to Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report).

The Associated Press offered a primer that is, put simply, required reading. The headline serves as suitable warning: "Take that back! Returns spike this holiday; retailers worry." The rest of the article really puts the issue of returns in bold relief. The current retail environment, rife with sales, is causing frenzies in the aisles. Shoppers are getting home and they can't quite afford what they bought in their excitable state. They are not even waiting until January, the traditional season of the return.

This is not about disliking a gift. It's buyer's remorse, writ large. Moreover, the ease of comparison shopping online and through various phone applications means that (even after the fact) shoppers are finding cheaper alternatives. All the while, stores are facilitating returns with easier policies and fewer shipping fees.

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In the end, returns are a gathering force in the retail industry--and not a force for good. When you read all the coverage of the holiday season that doesn't mention the early and often nature of returns, conjure up this Associated Press article in your mind.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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