WASHINGTON D.C., Dec 9, 2010 / — Gift receipts are quickly becoming a standard for holiday shoppers, which is great news for retailers who typically see long lines of people waiting to return holiday gifts after the Christmas rush.

According to NRF’s 2010 Holiday Returns Survey, six out of 10 (60.7%) shoppers say they provide a gift receipt most or some of the time when giving a gift, up from 58.5 percent who said so last year and 56.9 percent in 2006. Additionally, nine out of 10 Americans (88.4%) say they find stores return policies to be fair.

“The final week of December brings a variety of shoppers to stores, including people redeeming gift cards, bargain shoppers looking for next year’s gifts and of course, gift recipients who need to make returns,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

“With crowds still at peak levels on most days after Christmas, retailers will have extra staff and customer service representatives to assist, but gift receipts really do help make the return process a smooth one.”

While gift receipts are increasing in popularity, most won’t be used, as two-thirds (66.3%) of holiday shoppers say they didn’t return a single gift last holiday season.

NRF’s tips for stress-free returns after the holidays:

Know the retailer’s return policy before you buy.

Most retailers have return policies prominently displayed, especially at this time of year. Gift-givers should read and remember them. If policies are not clearly displayed, ask a sales associate or a manager to explain them to you. Most retailers also outline their return policy on their website.

Save and file all receipts! Receipts are still the key to hassle-free returns.

Some retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt, but oftentimes will only provide merchandise credit for the lowest markdown-price at which the item was sold during the holiday season. Make sure to provide the recipient with a gift receipt to save hassle after the holidays.

Provide all original packaging and all parts (including tags) when giving a gift.

Some retailers won’t accept returns unless the item is in its original package. If you plan to take back a gift after it is unwrapped, resist the urge to open it or play with it. No one wants to buy someone else’s merchandise.

Make online returns easy.

Returns are a part of shopping, no matter where you buy. In addition to the other rules of returns, here are a few things to find out before you purchase a gift online:

Know the process: Who pays for return shipping –you or the merchant? Some merchants will pick up the delivery charges for exchanges, but not for returns; others offer free return shipping on every return.

Where to make returns: Does the retailer have a physical store, and can returns or exchanges be made there? Make sure you have the correct address if you need to mail returns back to the company. Some merchants have offsite service centers to handle returns that may be in a different location from where the merchandise is sent.

Be patient.

Remember, the week after Christmas is one of the busiest weeks of the year for retailers. With people’s frustration high and tolerance low, be patient when returning merchandise.