Apparel company Zara has provoked digital outrage by implementing a fee of £1.95 (US$2.03) for customers looking to return clothing bought via its online store, according to media reports.
The returns fee is deducted from the refund total from orders returned via a drop-off point. Shoppers have 30 days to return the items and cannot return separate orders in the same box. However, items returned in-store will not incur any charges. The backlash from customers included several pointing out that the charge discriminates against disabled people who cannot easily go to a store.
Some customers have taken to social media to complain about the high street label’s new policy, with many criticizing the company for not officially announcing the change. Others have pointed out that inconsistencies in Zara’s sizing mean that many people buy multiple sizes online to try the clothes at home and return those that do not fit.
However, some people believe that charging a fee to return clothes may bring an end to ‘haul culture’, where people buy several items online and show them to followers online before returning most or all of them. The practice is popular among online content creators on Instagram and TikTok, who make short videos reviewing the items.
One shopper told the Independent, “I think they’re obviously trying to change people’s shopping habits… they’re calling some people ‘serial returners’. I do agree some people really need to not be so flippant about buying things but it’s not fair on other people who rarely do.”
Jonathan De Mello, founder and CEO of retail consultancy JDM Retail, tweeted, “Zara following Next and Uniqlo in charging for online returns – and more retailers will likely follow suit. It’s inevitable really, given the cost of processing online returns – not to mention the environmental impact. Good for stores too, as returns will still be free in-store.”
Pippa Stephens, a retail analyst at GlobalData, said, “The fashion industry has seen returns rates rising in recent months. This is due to consumers opting for more fashion-led items rather than the loungewear they primarily purchased during the lockdowns. The cancellation of Christmas parties last December, triggered by the new wave of Covid-19 cases, drove an influx of partywear returns.”
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