It's enough to make you weep! Boohoo axes free returns

It’s enough to make you weep! Boohoo axes free returns and introduces charge for sending back clothes

  • The move aims to cut the huge costs of handling items returned by customers
  • Free returns are estimated to cost the retail industry around £60 billion a year 
  • Many online shoppers buy items knowing that they will never keep them
  • A poll found 81 per cent of stores are ‘very concerned’ about the level of returns 

Fashion retailer Boohoo is to start charging customers to return clothes.

It comes as online stores bid to hold back the massive cost of handling items rejected by shoppers.

The free-returns policy has allowed companies such as Boohoo to thrive, but it has been abused by many shoppers who order large numbers of items knowing they will never keep them.

Struggling Boohoo is now joining a growing list of retailers that have given up on the returns – said to cost the industry around £60billion a year – to protect their finances. 

Online fashion giant Boohoo said customers must now pay £1.99 to return products, with the cost deducted from their refund 

Rising shipping costs are huge, while many of the returned items are thrown away because they are no longer on trend. 

Boohoo said customers must now pay £1.99 to return products, with the cost deducted from their refund.

Research by online delivery experts ParcelHero, which acts as a middleman between consumers and courier firms, found 81per cent of online stores are ‘very concerned’ by increasing levels of customer returns.

Its head of consumer research, David Jinks, estimated the cost runs to a massive £60 billion a year.

‘Retailers large and small have been stretched to breaking point by the soaring cost of returns, and we think a long line of stores will be altering their returns policy to claw back some of the spiralling costs,’ he said.

High Street firms such as Uniqlo, Next and Zara already charge for online returns. In 2019, ASOS sent an email to customers warning that it would deactivate accounts if it picked up an unusual pattern of returns or it suspected people were wearing products.

Al Gerrie, of ZigZag Global, who are retail returns specialists working with the likes of Boohoo and Zara, said: ‘There’s no such thing as a free return, there’s always someone who has to pay for it and given the current levels of inflation, supply chain issues, increased labour shortages and fuel surcharges, it is understandable that retailers would need to find a way to recoup some of the cost.

‘Especially as, post-pandemic, the number of online returns has increased significantly, as such, so has the cost to retailers.’ She added: ‘Shoppers in the UK have been spoiled with free returns as ‘the norm’ for many years, a luxury that is not offered in many other European countries.

‘Retailers are starting to see a significant impact on profits from the increased cost and frequency of returns.’ Catherine Shuttleworth, retail expert and founder of Savvy Marketing, said: ‘Shoppers have had an easy ride, but that’s changing now – they will increasingly find there’s a price to pay for returns.

‘The costs, both financially and environmentally, have been stacking up for retailers.

‘Retailers have been tightening up their returns policy by reducing the number of days a shopper can keep an item before expecting a return and in some cases charging a return fee,’ she added.

In May, Boohoo said soaring returns were partly to blame for a slump in its annual profits.

It said customers had returned items faster than expected in the second half of the year, with the rate higher than it was before the pandemic.

Boohoo’s brands include BoohooMan, Karen Millen, Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, Coast, Misspap, Oasis, Warehouse, Burton, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams.

A spokesman said: ‘As the cost of shipping has increased, we’ve had to look at where we can adapt without compromising what our customers love most, the convenience of shopping with us and the great value that our brands offer.

‘This has meant that we will be applying a charge of £1.99 to returns so that we can continue to offer great prices and products and do this in a more sustainable way.’


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