Zara now charges online shoppers £1.95 for returns to third-party drop-off points: Could paying for online returns become the norm?
- Zara now charges a £1.95 fee for returns of online orders to third-party drop-offs
- Returns of online orders to Zara stores are still free, the group said
- One in three fashion items snapped up online sent back, findings have claimed
Fashion giant Zara is now charging online customers a fee for returns to drop-off points across the country.
The retailer is charging shoppers who wish to return items to third-party drop-off points a £1.95 fee, which is deducted from the refund sum.
However, returns for online orders to the group’s stores remain free of charge, the group told This is Money.
Recent findings from returns specialist ReBound found that one in three fashion items snapped up online are sent back, which is around double the rate for goods bought in store.
Returns charge for drop-offs: Fashion giant Zara is now charging online customers a fee for returns to third-party drop-off points
Zara shoppers still have 30 days from the shipping date of their order to return an item purchased online. The items ‘must have all their labels and be in perfect condition’, the retailer says on its website.
Such a move by a mega-brand like Zara has led to questions over whether charging online shoppers for returns could become the norm in future, particularly amid mounting concerns over sustainability and the environment.
Companies like Zara will also be all too aware of the potential impact bumper returns from online shoppers can have on their bottom lines.
The retail landscape has shifted seismically in the last decade or so, and ordering dresses, bras and even shoes online has become the norm.
Yet, this is not a sector without its pitfalls, and returns of online orders have surged, and can be a headache for both shoppers and retailers.
Swathes of returns from online orders can also, in some instances, hit a retailer’s finances.
Findings from returns management company NShift have claimed it costs businesses an average of £20 to deal with each online return, taking into account everything from shipping and storage to repackaging and discounting.
Earlier this month, online-based fashion retailer Boohoo revealed that profits had taken a hit from online shoppers returning clothes at a faster rate than before the pandemic.
Boohoo’s pre-tax profit slumped by 94 per cent to £7.8million in the year to the end of February.
Its sales are still well above pre-Covid levels, however, after high streets closed and shoppers turned to ordering online.
But since restrictions were lifted customers have flocked back to physical stores and Boohoo says its online shoppers are sending more items back.
Some retailers like Asos have said they will block ‘serial returners’ from their online shop, while Marks & Spencer has also said it will contact customers sending back an unusually high number of online orders.
Plus, certain businesses already charge for the shipment or collection of returns for online orders.
At Wayfair, for example, the return shipping charge can vary between £4.99 and £9.99 for small parcel courier services and from £20 and £50 for large parcel courier services.
Taking a hit: Boohoo’s profit took a hit amid surging levels of online order returns
Recent research from parcelLab, which examined 200 of the UK’s top retailers, found that 76 per cent of brands continued to offer free returns, despite having made certain commitments about sustainability.
The findings also suggested that over a quarter of Britons would opt for one brand over another if they conveyed strong sustainability commitments, adding that nine in 10 retailers did not promote paperless returns.
Tobias Buxhoidt, chief executive and co-founder of parcelLab, told This is Money: ‘It is important to strike a balance between offering the consumer convenience while also limiting the impact the notoriously damaging returns process has on the environment.
The proliferation of the “serial returner” has become a real issue for major retailers, so it comes as no surprise Zara are now introducing a £1.95 charge to return orders – and it is likely other major retailers will follow in the footsteps of Zara.
‘If retailers are to begin charging for returns, then this then becomes a paid for service and must be fast, efficient, and directly communicated to the consumer. Retailers’ attention to their environmental impact must be coupled with first class customer experience if charges are to implemented by brands more widely.’