Consumer returns in the US are projected to exceed $816bn this year, according to new data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Appriss Retail.

The data are based on a survey conducted on 70 retailers between 19 September and 14 October.

Driven by rising retail sales, the average return rate reduced slightly to 16.5% during the year compared with 16.6% last year.

The data showed that for every $1bn in sales, the average retailer incurs $165m in merchandise returns, while retailers lose $10.40 to return fraud for every $100 in returned merchandise they accepted.

Half the respondents cited ‘wardrobing’ or returns of used, non-defective merchandise as one of the most common types of retail fraud, while 41.4% experienced the return of shoplifted or stolen merchandise.

During the year, online return rates dropped from 20.8% to 16.5% against a year earlier.

Online sales are expected to represent around $1.29tn of total US retail sales for this year, with the NRF’s data revealing that $22.8bn or 10.7% of the roughly $212bn in returned online purchases will be considered fraudulent.

In addition, of expected in-store sales of more than $3.66tn, $603m will be returned.

The data showed that around $62.1bn of these returns are expected to be fraudulent, equivalent to 10.3% of the total.

NRF research development and industry analysis vice-president Mark Mathews said: “Even with 29 continuous months of retail sales growth, consumers have remained steady with the overall rate of merchandise returned to retailers this year.

“While oftentimes returns represent a lost sale for a retail establishment, returns can also provide recourse through positive customer engagement and, potentially, another purchase.”

The NRF projects total retail sales for this year to increase by 6-8% to more than $4.86tn.

Last month, the trade association reported that retail sales in the US rose by 1.3% seasonally adjusted from September to October.