The fashion retailer Zara has ended free returns by post. If online shoppers wish to post back unwanted items they must pay £1.95 which will be deducted from the refunded amount. Customers will still be able to return and exchange items in store at no cost. Zara isn’t the first retailer to charge for returns, Next already charges shoppers £2.
Photo by Abbat on Unsplash
Is this the end of free returns?
Retailers, like most of us, are currently feeling the squeeze. Many retailers will be forced to make savings because of a rise in labour costs and energy prices. By scrapping free returns they may be able to avoid raising the prices of the products.
I’m sure that other retailers will be keeping an eye on how things go for Zara and may follow suit. Apparently H&M haven’t ruled it out. However, ASOS, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis have said they will be keeping returns free.
In the past I’ve been guilty of ordering online with the intention of only keeping a couple of items and sending the rest back. I previously talked about this in my post on the shopping habits I regret. Apparently 20% of all online purchases are returned.
It goes without saying that returns are bad for the environment. Items sent out and then returned create needless greenhouse emissions. I think there is still the misconception that when you return an item it is repackaged for the next customer. In fact, many returns end up in landfill and in some cases are even burnt.
If returns were no longer free maybe that would discourage people from unnecessary ordering. I know I find it off putting if I have to pay to return an item. In the past I have offered items to my sister or resold online.
Shoppers generally return items because they turn out to be poor quality or the fit isn’t quite right. In 2020 Levi’s adopted the MySize ID solution to help shoppers find the right size garment. After testing on the Turkish market “it calculated that 70% of returns were related to size problems, and that the garments involved lost on average 50% of their value after being returned. By deploying the MySize ID sizing widget, Levi’s recorded a 47% decrease in returns.”
While Zara’s aim is to reduce costs, I think they should be looking harder at returns. Brands can make sure how they market clothing accurately reflects what the product is like in real life. They could provide more accurate sizing information. Some brands even offer ways of letting shoppers try items on virtually.
The impact of returns contributes a staggering 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and that’s something that should be taken seriously.