Returns are costing retailers £60bn a year, and an increasing number are caused by shoppers “wardrobing’: wearing or using items once and then sending them back. Now the online fashion retailer ASOS is fighting back against serial wearers with a bold new move to crack down on “unusual” returns; and it’s a change likely to be mirrored across the retail industry, claims the home delivery expert ParcelHero.
Says ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks MILT: ‘Stores have just been waiting to see who will be first to blink. For many retailers, a single return means they have made a loss on an item, meaning returns devour at least 13% of online businesses’ annual profits. Struggling stores have been waiting for someone to take the first step and will likely now follow ASOS’ lead.”
Explains David: ‘”Wardrobing” is a headache for ASOS, but it’s a make or break issue for smaller specialist online marketplace traders. They are frequently forced to take back clearly used items rather than lose their five-star rankings or consumer trust scores, and furthermore, can’t afford to take such cases to court. They will be very relieved to see a major retailer finally taking a stand.’
David observes: ‘”Wardrobing” is a huge problem for retailers, costing billions of pounds. However, no store wanted to be the one to make the first move. That’s because 83% of shoppers now say they check returns policies and only shop again with a store that has a returns policy they like. It has needed a retailer of ASOS’ size and enduring popularity to finally take the bull by the horns.’
Adds David: ‘ParcelHero’s own research has revealed around 10% of shoppers now admit they return several items a month, up from 8% in 2017. In fact, an astonishing 60% of all online purchases were returned last Christmas. It’s easy to see why nearly 200 specialist online retailers told us they were closing down in January because they couldn’t absorb the influx of returns costs.’
With 9% of shoppers revealing they have ordered an item just to take a picture for social media or a vlog and then return it, it’s small wonder ASOS intends to stamp down. ASOS’ new returns policy says: ‘If we notice an unusual pattern of returns activity that doesn't sit right: e.g. we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning loads – way, waaay more than even the most loyal ASOS customer would order – then we might have to deactivate the account and any associated accounts.'
Reveals David: ‘Retailers large and small will be breathing a sigh of relief that someone has made the first move. Now other e-commerce retailers will be able to follow suit. And it’s not just fashion retailers who feel the brunt of so-called “wardrobing”. Sites selling items such as power tools are also regularly having to accept returns on items that have been used for a job and then sent back.’
Concludes David: ‘ASOS may have 'sugared the pill' by increasing its returns period from 28 to 45 days (for a voucher after 29 days) but this is undoubtedly still a tough new policy. And the terms of its 'wardrobing' crackdown are likely to be As Seen On the Screens of many more e-commerce sites very soon.' For more information on the full impact of returns on retailers large and small, don’t miss ParcelHero’s report, ‘Retailers Reach the Point of No Returns’ at www.parcelhero.com/returns.