At least 79 percent of fashion retailers are currently charging for returns in the United Kingdom. While paid returns are now common in the fashion industry, within the total ecommerce market a majority is still offering free returns (52 percent).
Since 2022, large fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara have started using return fees. Since then, the fashion sector has widely implemented that strategy. These data come from new research conducted by Sendcloud, a shipping software provider from the Netherlands. It analyzed the return policies of the top 100 retailers in the United Kingdom.
Lack of transparency in return policies
According to the study, 12 percent of online retailers are not openly displaying their requirements for returns. Their return policies are available through support pages, instead of displaying them in a footer.
64% of retailers do not disclose return fees upfront.
This lack of transparency is even more common when it comes to return costs. Up to 64 percent of retailers with return fees do not disclose these charges upfront. Their fees average 6.14 euros (5.22 British pounds), with a mean of 3.47 euros (2.95 British pounds). The range is from 2.34 euros (1.99 British pounds) to 29.37 euros (24.99 British pounds). Not being upfront about these costs can lead to customer dissatisfaction.
“Return policies can be a huge dealbreaker, and offering a smooth returns process is crucial to retaining customers”, says Rob van den Heuvel, CEO and co-founer of Sendcloud. Yet, only 23 percent of sellers show their return policies on their home page. And in 27 percent of cases, a refund period cannot be found.
‘Returns need to be simple’
“For years, customers have been accustomed to free returns, but they have never actually been ‘free’. In reality, they carry significant economic and environmental costs. Implementing a small return fee can help make customers more aware of this. However, retailers have to make this as easy and simple as possible in order to retain their customers in the long run.”
Ease of return process
The research also looked at the ease of returns. A large majority (68 percent) of retailers have a return portal where customers can arrange returns. But the return process can still be more streamlined. Only 43 percent offer pick-up services, and 74 percent have in-store options. And only 12 percent mention parcel lockers as an option.
Only 11 percent provide printed labels to return orders. Often, customers need to print a label at home. And 32 percent have paperless returns, where customers can use a QR code to drop off their package.
‘It is time for the industry to rethink returns.’
“It is clear that the rules of the game are changing. The era of free returns is past us, making way for conscious returns practices. Beyond rethinking the costs of returns, it is time for the entire industry to rethink returns. Replacing pre-printed labels with QR codes is one way to do so.”