Hate that jumper? Here’s what to do with unwanted Christmas presents

The lowdown on donating or selling unloved items or returning them to the store

Did you receive any dud presents this Christmas? Consumers waste millions of pounds on unwanted presents every year, meaning many of us will be stuck with redundant gifts when the festive period is over.

According to research published this week by the consumer body Which?, one in four people (24%) received an unwanted or unsuitable gift for the Christmas of 2021.

Meanwhile, a separate study by the personal finance comparison site Finder said £1.2bn was wasted on unwanted Christmas gifts each year.

However, you don’t have to just let them collect dust, or contribute to landfill by throwing ill-advised presents away. There are other options available, such as returning, donating or selling your unloved items.

Return it

You may be able to return the item to the store your friend or relative bought it from, either for a refund, exchange or store credit.

The process will be easier if you have a gift receipt, allowing you to swap it for something more appropriate or get store credit to buy something at a later date.

Polo neck shirt with receipt
Returning an unwanted item to a store will be easier if you have a receipt. Photograph: Robert Smith/Alamy

However, if you do not have a receipt, you may need to have an uncomfortable conversation with your loved one in order to get proof of purchase. Most stores will only allow you to exchange or refund the item with a receipt.

Some retailers may accept returns without a receipt over the Christmas and new year period but it depends on each store’s policy. It may be worth trying your luck if you can’t face the awkward exchange.

Many stores extend their returns deadline at this time of year, so hopefully you should not run out of time to take it back.

Lisa Webb, a consumer law expert at Which?, says: “Many retailers extend their return policy from October, giving customers until January to request a refund or exchange just in case a gift falls flat.”

John Lewis is among the big names that have extended their returns policy over the Christmas period. It said any item bought between 27 September and 24 December can be returned until 28 January if it is unwanted or unsuitable.

Marks & Spencer said any purchases made online or in-store between 13 October and 24 December can be returned until 28 January. For purchases made from 25 December onwards, the normal returns policy applies.

Amazon is accepting returns for most items bought between 1 November and 31 December until 31 January, and Asos orders placed between 24 November and Christmas Eve can be returned until 24 January for a full refund back to the original payment method.

Give it to someone else

High Angle View Of Christmas Present On Wooden Table
Do you have a friend or family member who could make better use of a gift you received? Photograph: Mercedes Victoria Maldonado/Getty Images/EyeEm

If the present isn’t to your taste, you could keep it and give it to someone you think will appreciate it more than you.

Keep the labels and packaging intact and store it away for next Christmas or any birthdays.

Remember not to give it back to the person who gave it to you originally, and only pass it on to someone you really think will appreciate it – otherwise you are just handing the problem over to someone else.

Donate it

Check with local charity shops to see if they are accepting donations.

Some have been overwhelmed with donations, or only accept drop-offs on specific days.

Items in a charity shop
Ask your local charity shops if they are accepting donations. Photograph: Tim Rooke/Rex/Shutterstock

Charity shops are usually happy to take most unwanted gifts, particularly if they are brand-new and unopened, as they may well fetch a higher price. The items should be good quality and in great condition.

If you are short on time and want to get rid of unwanted clothes you were given, check whether you live near a charity clothing bank.

You could also donate directly to charities such as food banks, baby banks and refuges. Double-check that the item is appropriate to their needs before dropping it off.

Sell it

If you have missed the returns deadline, you could try to sell your unwanted gift online using a site such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Vinted or Gumtree.

If you don’t think it will fetch much money, you could consider giving it away for free and listing it on a site such as Freecycle or Olio.

However, if possible, you should make sure the listing won’t be viewable by the person who gave it to you.


Jess Clark

The GuardianTramp

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