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Retail’s Latest Challenge Is a ‘Problematic’ Number of Returns

Shoppers carry bags on Fifth Avenue in New York.
Shoppers carry bags on Fifth Avenue in New York.Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

U.S. retailers are bracing for more returns than usual, adding stress to an industry already grappling with increasing labor costs and supply-chain issues.

Shoppers are expected to return more than $761 billion in merchandise sold last year, representing about 16.6% of total U.S. retail sales, according to a survey of retailers released Tuesday. That’s up from 10.6% during 2020.