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A guide to how retail returns auctions work, from the UK's leading online auction house.
5 Mins

Buyer's Guide: Retail Returns

Ellie Hinton
Ellie Hinton

Retail returns are hitting new levels every day. With many people spending more and more time at home because of the Covid impact, online shopping became more popular than ever.

What comes with that is unexpectedly going up a dress size, those shoes not getting worn and ordering the wrong PlayStation game for your brother’s birthday present… (talking on behalf of a friend here).

In all seriousness, when these things happen, we return the items, right?

You will also find that because of lockdown, businesses have become more relaxed with their returns polices due to customers not being able to report something within a normal time frame or because times have been hard. Some brands also allow you to return goods within a guarantee period.

What are retail returns?

Retail returns can quite literally be anything. Best case it could be a brand-new item, ordered accidentally or in the wrong colour/size. Worst case, it could be a damaged or faulty item.

Within a retail return order, you can expect a mix of new, used, damaged goods, faulty items, missing components, customer returns, ex-display, missing parts, failed delivery, the wrong item delivered, items returned in the guarantee period, damaged or broken packaging, missing parts, incomplete set, or the wrong item ordered.

Are retail returns for me?

Are you a risk taker? Are you willing to accept the good and the bad?

As mentioned above, you can expect a mixed bag. The way to succeed with them is time and effort. Returns can be slightly used or worn and could probably do with a slight refresh. At first glance, these items may not be perfect however with a little elbow grease and a few tools, you could be on your way to a great pallet as most returns just require a little bit of handy work.

When buying from the secondary market, not everything will be pristine.

Here’s an example…

‘My laptop's locked, there are children’s fingerprints all over the screen and I can’t see a charger with it’.

I’m hoping you’re more technical than me here and you’d know how to re set a locked laptop, however, if you are like me, drop it down to a local IT shop and they’ll have that done in a flash for around £30. Get out some anti-bac wipes and a cloth and give that piece of equipment a new lease of life. Before you know it, it’s looking brand new! If you’re missing the charger, you can pick one up for very little.

If you’ve paid £100 for a great laptop at auction, that cost £30 to unlock, free to clean and a picked up a charger for £10, I believe you’ve had a win.

How can I make use of broken goods?

If you do receive a pallet with broken goods don’t think rubbish dump! It’s so easy to assume there is nothing worth salvaging however, there really is. Did you know there is a whole market for broken goods? Refurbishing items is very popular, and you would potentially be able to sell these goods on for a decent price.

Alternatively, you could break down and unpick your broken goods into spares and repairs. YouTube is amazing and can really help you out when doing things like this. You’ll become a pro in no time. Spares and repairs are also very easy to sell on.

What can I expect?

You can expect some incredible brands within your retail returns. Smeg, Sony, LG, Shark and Dyson to name a few.

You’ll find bi-weekly auctions of raw returns sourced from John Lewis on our site, so you know you’ll be bidding on desirable products.

We offer standard, premium and some graded pallets so you can decide what price range and stock you’d prefer.

We also have a range of pallets from homeware, kitchenware, toys, lighting and garden furniture so you can take your pick.

Can I make money from this?

It is most definitely possible to make an extra income from this. It isn’t too time consuming and getting the pallets delivered to your door makes it even easier. If you are going to make this a side hustle, then you need to put your business head on and accept that sometimes you aren’t going to have a win or profit from every pallet. You win some and lose some. It is worth weighing up things such as your budget, the space you have for the pallets and making sure you do not pay more than what the pallet would be worth to you.

Sold in bulk

As Jake has mentioned in a previous blog, buying retail returns in bulk can allow you to do many things such as buy gifts, furnish your kitchen with some premium appliances, or make a profit reselling some of the UK’s most-wanted products. You may also be moving into your home and need a bundle of new things?

What are raw returns?

Raw returns are unchecked. You can expect a customer to return an item to a shop, the shop assistant to put it out the back for it to be loaded onto a pallet and sent to you. At no point do we check what is being sent. If you have looked at our return auctions, you will know we are selling, in some cases, some premium items with a £4,000 RRP at no reserve. If we were to start spending time and money checking through pallets you would find we would end up having to charge our customers more, resulting in a loss for us all.


If a particular lot takes your fancy, I would do some homework on it. Consider each item listed and let it reflect in your bid. Think about things such as what if the most expensive item doesn’t work? What if it does? How much are you prepared to bid on a pallet of items that could need refurbishment? As well as the hammer price you need to factor in the Buyer’s Premium, VAT and delivery that comes with every single lot.

A popular influencer, Emily Canham, recently reviewed one of our pallets on YouTube after stumbling across our website. Her video was great and gives an example of what you can expect to receive from one of our Raw Retail Return Pallets. She had been after a particular coffee machine for a while, which she had found in one of our lots the entire lot was cheaper than the brand-new coffee machine!

Luckily, there are no hidden surprises with us. We’re extremely transparent when selling returned goods. Any information can be found within the lot descriptions, important information and T&Cs.

Buying retail returns is an exciting and rewarding experience so head over to our live auctions and see what you could be bidding on today!