Oasis will reduce its Black Friday activity this year after the retailer was “caught off guard” last year when return rates reached 50% of all orders.

Speaking at a panel discussion on delivery and fulfilment at Retail Week’s Tech & Ecomm conference today, the fashion retailer’s director of digital Briony Garbett said the business did not anticipate the scale of the trading day, which also caused a headache for others in the industry.

“We were caught off guard last year and were in a bit of a pickle,” she said.

“This year we have looked at the two months from last year and what it did for us – we have looked at sales and overall profits over that period and the returns. The returns from last year came back a couple of weeks later [compared with its standard returns]. We got into a pickle and dispatch went out later so customers didn’t get [their orders] until later and that increases returns anyway.”

She said returns increased to 50%.

“The main driver was because people were buying more and that increases the likelihood of returns.” She said when it came to deliveries, the retailer failed some customers, making some irate because they did not receive items in time for a particular occasion such as their Christmas party.

Cautious approach to Black Friday

The retailer will take a more cautious approach this year.

“This year we will do something but it won’t be near the scale of last year. We don’t want to fall into the trap of having an anniversary of everything on Sale,” said Garbett, adding that would encourage customers to wait until the Sale period before making a purchase.

However, Sunhil Bhudia, ecommerce logistics manager at River Island, said the fashion retailer enjoyed a “relatively successful” Black Friday and had record sales. He added that this year the retailer will stretch its promotional activity for the event, rather than focusing on the one day.

During the session, Garbett said Oasis planned to roll out click-and-collect express, a service enabling customers to pick up online orders in store on the same day they are made. She said given the commercial costs, the business would be forced to charge customers for click-and-collect.