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Taking the Risk out of ‘Hassle-Free’ Returns

BY CSA STAFF

By Robert E. Walters, Theretailequation.com

It’s a well known fact that stellar customer service can differentiate one retailer from another. From localized product selection to great personal service to lenient return policies, retailers are continually evaluating innovative ways to keep their customers smiling. But as retailers consider changes to their return policies, it’s important to find ways to better manage risk and prevent invalid returns from slipping through the cracks.

Major retailers have revamped their return policies by feeling confident in their ability to protect against fraud, including:

  • Eliminating restocking fees on returns;
  • Improving return speed by reducing the number of manager approvals required; and
  • Increasing the dollar amount of cash that can be refunded on a transaction rather than put on merchandise credit.

Allowing more flexible return terms for loyalty program consumers.

The following tips are offered for improving customer service at the point of return:

  • Provide fair and flexible returns: A recent study showed retailers that don’t provide cash refunds on returns or don’t accept returns without a receipt, rank high on consumers’ list of complaints.
  • Treat your best customers as such: A benefit of implementing return authorization systems is the ability to distinguish good consumers from those committing return fraud.
  • Don’t underestimate the Importance of proper staffing And training: Make sure there is an ample number of staff at the return counter to maintain efficiently and that they fully understand the company’s return policies.

Robert E. Walters is VP of sales and marketing for The Retail Equation, Irvine, Calif., which optimizes retailers’ revenue and margin by shaping behavior in every customer transaction.

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Whole Food Q2 profit surges 31%; on track to open 24 to 27 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Austin, Texas — In what it called the best quarter in its 32-year history, Whole Foods Market’s second-quarter profit jumped nearly 31% on stronger sales. The company raised its full-year outlook on the results.

“Our exceptional results in the first half of the year have given us the confidence to significantly raise our guidance for the full year. We are confident that our sales momentum and operating disciplines will create continued positive results for our shareholders," Walter Robb, co-CEO said in a statement.

Whole Foods earned a better-than-expected $117.7 million for the quarter that ended April 8, up from $89.9 million in the same quarter last year.

Revenue rose nearly 14% to $2.67 billion, in line with expectations. Same-store sales rose 9.5%.

Co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey said that new Whole Food stores continued to show great year-over-year improvement and operating performance in the second quarter. Compared with last year’s class of new stores, this year’s class is 14% smaller in size, averaging 38,000 sq. ft., and produced average weekly sales per store of $576,000 translating to 23% higher sales per square foot of $791, Mackey said.

Whole Foods has signed 33 new leases over the last 12 months and is on track to open between 24 to 27 new stores in fiscal 2012, and 28 to 32 new stores in fiscal 2013.

“We currently have in development 70 stores totaling 2.5 million sq. ft., which translates to about 21% of our operating store base,” Mackey said on the call.

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Build-A-Bear Workshop narrows loss

BY Marianne Wilson

St. Louis — Build-A-Bear Workshop posted a narrower-than-expected loss for the first quarter. The retailer reported a net loss of $1.0 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2012, down from a loss of $2.3 million last year.

Consolidated net retail sales of $95.2 million represented a 1.6% increase compared to $94.2 million. Revenue came in at $96.4 million, missing the $97.6 million analysts had expected. Same-store sales in the quarter rose 3.6% in North America. Overall same-store sales rose 1.2%.

At the end of the quarter, Build-A-Bear Workshop operated 348 company-owned stores – 290 in North America and 58 in Europe.

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