Fast fashion giant Boohoo will start charging £1.99 for returns on their standard service. They used to offer these returns for free, meaning shoppers could order a whole variety of styles and sizes, try them on and then send them back. But what is the real cost of returning clothes? It's more than just a few quid...
Boohoo Free Returns Axed: Here's The Real Cost of Fast Fashion Returns
Now Even More UK Brands Are Charging Returns Fees
Ever since Boohoo introduced return fees in July 2022, an increasing number of UK businesses have followed suit.
This includes Mountain Warehouse and THG now charge for items to be returned if bought online. For Mountain Warehouse it's £2.99 per order and for THG brands it's £2.99 per order.
Why are Brands Charging for Returns?
Boohoo say they're forced to charge for returns due to increased shipping costs. With rising fuel costs, this is perhaps not surprising.
Returns are a normal part of any kind of shopping experience. The price of the clothes you buy likely factors in returns. But the phenomenon of cheap online fashion has led to a new norm of buying up lots of clothes and returning them. As a result, there is more work for brands to do when customers return items. It's certainly not 'free' as it takes a lot of work to process the returns.
Mountain Warehouse also cited the increased costs of collecting and processing returns.
The Fast Fashion Brands that still Give Free Returns
We have a look at some of the most popular fast fashion brands to see what their policies are on free returns.
You can still get 'free returns' at fast fashion brands such as:
- Shein - free returns within 60 days
- Forever 21 - free returns within 30 days
- ASOS - free returns within 28 days
- H&M - free returns within 28 days
- Pretty Little Thing - free returns within 28 days
Fast Fashion Brands that Charge for Returns
Zara is one of the first high street brands to charge for online returns. You can still drop off your returns at a Zara store for free, though.
At Uniqlo, a £2.95 is deducted from your full refund to return items by post.
Next also charge for their returns, but it is possible to return at a store for free.
Sports Direct is another company that charge for returns in the post. The customer has to arrange and pay for whatever postage is necessary.
The Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion Returns
Returns aren't bad on the whole, but this largely depends on how brands deal with them. Do they, for example, get checked over and then resold somewhere else? Or do they just get chucked straight into a skip heading for landfill...Curse the thought!
Most fast fashion brands are now trying to deal with returns, either working with local charities or private companies to resell and rehome unwanted clothes.
But the issue is that we are still creating too many clothes that only get worn for one season or even just one party or a zoom interview. The result is that we have far too many clothes on this planet, which comes to an ugly head in places like the fast fashion dump in the Atacama Desert. It also swamps the second hand reselling markets in West Africa.
What's the Alternative to Wasteful Fast Fashion Returns
We're never going to cut out returns because it's okay that a garment doesn't fit you. It's alright to change your mind.
But there is something inherently wrong with fast fashion in that garments get returned and never get worn again.
There are ways to avoid 'bracketing' or buying the same dress in five different sizes.
Part of the solution is knowing your size. But the issue often lies with brands who need to offer accurate measurements on their clothes. Sizes vary so much but measurements are much more helpful, even if time consuming.
Sometimes people return items after they've worn it once for an event. This is essentially a way of renting a garment for free and this is known as 'wardrobing'. The issue here is that the garment may not be reused depending on the policy of the company you got it from.
If you still want something relatively 'new' but don't want to pay top dollar for designer gear, lots of brands and shops offer a rental service. It's still not a perfect solution...
Bottom Line: Time To Embrace Second Hand Fashion
When you buy second hand fashion you can change up your style as and when you feel like it. You can buy a shirt, wear it, take good care of it and then pass it on. You can donate or resell it, likely to someone who wants to give it a good home. If we can create a circular economy of affordable, preloved fashion, we can swap clothes with each other and freshen up our outfits without having to send items needlessly to landfill.