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Zara charges £1.95 for online returns to drop-off locations

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 fee of £1.95 for returning online orders to third-party drop-off locations
  • Returns of online orders to Zara branches are still free of charge, the group said
  • One in three fashion items bought online was returned, the findings said

Fashion giant Zara is now charging online customers a fee for returns to drop-off locations across the country.

The retailer charges buyers wishing to return items to third party drop off points a fee of £1.95 which will be deducted from the refund total.

However, returns for online orders in the group’s stores remain free, the group told This is Money.

Recent findings from returns specialist ReBound revealed that one in three fashion items bought online is returned, which is roughly double the rate for goods bought in-store.

Return Fee for Duties: Fashion giant Zara is now charging online shoppers a fee for returns to third-party delivery points

Zara buyers have 30 days from the shipping date of their order to return an item purchased online. Items “must have all tags and be in perfect condition,” the retailer says on its website.

Such a move by a mega-brand like Zara has led to questioning whether charging online shoppers for returns could become the norm in the future, especially amid growing sustainability and environmental concerns.

Businesses like Zara will also be aware of the potential impact returns from online buyers can have on their bottom line.

The retail landscape has changed seismic over the past decade, and ordering dresses, bras, and even shoes online has become the norm.

However, this is not a sector without its pitfalls, and returns from online orders have risen sharply and can be a headache for both buyers and retailers.

Streams of returns from online orders can also hit a retailer’s finances in some cases.

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According to returns management company NShift, it costs businesses an average of £20 to process each online return, taking into account everything from shipping and storage to repackaging and discounts.

Earlier this month, online-based fashion retailer Boohoo announced that profits had been hurt by online shoppers who were returning clothes faster than before the pandemic.

Boohoo’s pre-tax profit fell 94 percent to £7.8 million in the year to the end of February.

However, sales are still well above pre-Covid levels after high streets closed and shoppers turned to ordering online.

But since restrictions were lifted, customers have returned to physical stores in droves, and Boohoo says its online shoppers are returning more items.

Some retailers such as Asos have said they are blocking “stock returns” from their online store, while Marks & Spencer has also said it will contact customers who are returning an unusually high number of online orders.

Also, certain companies already charge shipping or returns collection fees for online orders.

At Wayfair, for example, return shipping costs can vary from £4.99 to £9.99 for small parcel couriers and £20 to £50 for large parcel couriers.

Slump: Boohoo's profits took a tumble amid rising returns from online orders

Slump: Boohoo’s profits took a tumble amid rising returns from online orders

Current research out packetLab, which surveyed 200 of the UK’s top retailers, found that 76 per cent of brands continue to offer free returns despite making certain sustainability commitments.

The results also suggest that more than a quarter of Britons would choose one brand over another if they conveyed strong sustainability commitments, adding that nine in 10 retailers are not encouraging paperless returns.

Tobias Buxhoidt, Managing Director and co-founder of packetLab, told This is Money: “It is important to strike a balance between offering consumer convenience and limiting the environmental impact of the notoriously harmful returns process.

The proliferation of the ‘serial return slip’ has become a real problem for big retailers, so it’s no surprise that Zara is now introducing a £1.95 fee for returning orders – and it’s likely that other big retailers in will follow in Zara’s footsteps.

“When retailers start charging for returns, it becomes a paid service and needs to be communicated quickly, efficiently and directly to the consumer. Retailers’ awareness of their environmental impact needs to be coupled with a superior customer experience if brands are to roll out fees more widely.’

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Zara charges £1.95 for online returns to drop-off locations

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