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THE BIG SLOW DOWN? – Will charging for returns put the brakes on fast-fashion?

Will ending “try-on” culture really slow fast-fashion down?

According to The Guardian, “Online retail giant Boohoo has become the latest in a string of retailers, including Next, Uniqlo, and Zara, to start charging shoppers for returns.”

Boohoo customers will now have to pay £1.99 for each one.

And, as Retail Week points out, “The move may discourage shoppers from buying multiple sizes of one item or ordering multiple options for one event and sending them back.”

Some retail analysts believe the industry-wide U-turn will have a detrimental impact on sales. But a 2020 KPMG survey put the annual costs of returns to the industry at over £7 billion.

And, initially, adverse customer reaction on social media has been muted. The FT reports that “Less than 1 per cent of tweets directed at Zara and Boohoo mentioned the changes.”

Another upside is the environmental impact. The Guardian again: “When clothes are returned, they’re likely to be thrown away rather than resold. In the US, 2.6m tonnes of returned goods end up in landfill every year, generating 15m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.”

A sustainable message around reducing returns that – if positively communicated through relevant marketing channels – is likely to be attractive to the key Gen Z audience.

In the long term, then, less of a slow-down, more of a brief pause.