It’s common practice for consumers to return goods in mass quantities following the holiday season. But this year, that concept may be taken to more of an extreme.

In November, digital sales climbed 31.2% year over year, due in large part to consumers’ desire to avoid in-person shopping during a pandemic. But many of those purchases are likely to be given back to stores in the coming weeks, and at a higher rate than in previous years.

How bracketing could hurt retailers this year

Bracketing is the concept of buying multiple versions of the same item, knowing at least some will be returned. A customer, for example, might shop online for a pair of pants without being certain what size they need or what color works best. As such, they may be inclined to order the same pair of pants in multiple colors and sizes, keep one or two, and return the bulk of that purchase.

The idea of bracketing isn’t new, but there’s been an uptick during the pandemic. More than 60% of consumers employed bracketing in 2020, reports customer experience platform Narvar, which represents a 29% increase from 2019.

To be fair, consumers aren’t bracketing just to stick it to retailers. For 41%, that uptick is attributable to the fact that their weight has fluctuated during the pandemic. Meanwhile, for 31%, it’s because they can’t simply try things on in a store and walk out with the handful of items they need like they normally would. And also, some