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Royal Mail “Item Retention” – Meaning?

You’re expecting a Royal Mail delivery and have received an “Item Retention” Tracking update.

What does this mean exactly? Where is your package when you see this alert and what do you do if the tracking becomes stuck?

Let’s take a look…

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Summary: Royal Mail “Item Retention”

The “Item Retention” tracking alert from Royal Mail can be triggered for multiple reasons, however, the end result is that the package is being held inside the local delivery centre rather than being sent to the destination address. In most cases, the recipient will need to contact Royal Mail for further information.

Royal Mail “Item Retention” – Guide

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As mentioned above, there are a number of reasons you might have received the “Item Retention” status alert.

The outcome is the same, however.

Namely, the mail item is being retained inside the local delivery centre rather than going out for delivery.

Possible scenarios leading to this include:

1. Problems With the Address Details


If there is an issue with the address details in terms of a missing house or apartment number, the mail item can be retained.

Normally the tracking will indicate that the recipient should contact Royal Mail to clarify these details. However, this is not always the case.

This is a situation where in the absence of any further instructions it is a good idea to call anyway.

2. Royal Mail Couldn’t Deliver That Day

Item Rentention

Sometimes Royal Mail will use the “Item Retention” update if the package was scheduled for delivery that day, but didn’t leave the delivery center.

Rather than scan the item as a failed delivery, item retention is used instead. 

If the alert has been used in this scenario, the tracking will normally indicate that delivery will take place the following business day.

In the example above, you can see that the “Item due for Redelivery” alert was sent just a couple of hours after the original “Item Retention” update.

In other words, all you need to do is wait until the next day.

3. The Mail Item Was Miss-scanned

Item scanned

There is also the possibility that the item retention update was sent in error.

If the package was miss-scanned, you could end up seeing this alert, when in fact your package is on its way.

In the absence of any further information, you can either decide to wait and see or contact Royal Mail immediately for more details on why the item is being held.

What to do After Receiving an “Item Retention” Alert?

girl frustrated on computer

As the above section shows, the update will often contain additional details that will help explain why the item has been retained in the first place.

Therefore, you should follow the recommended steps set out by Royal Mail.

This could mean that you have been advised to pick up the item in person from a particular facility or post office.

It can also mean that you will need to call Royal Mail and provide the requested information, (clarification of address for example).

In the absence of any information, it is a good idea to contact the postal service anyway.

Final Words

The “Item Retention” update can be annoying to receive as it basically means your mail item is close, (it has made it to the delivery centre close to the destination address).

However, something has prevented Royal Mail from making the final delivery.

Keep an eye on your tracking for suggested steps and when in doubt give them a call.

2 thoughts on “Royal Mail “Item Retention” – Meaning?”

    • Have you checked your tracking number on The final entry is: “Your item was delivered back to the sender on 24-01-2024 Signed for by: ZARA”… it seems that the package has been returned to the sender.


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