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Consumers met with unexpected return fees on Christmas purchases

Chloe Burney
03 January 2023

Shoppers in the UK are being met with unexpected fees when returning Christmas gifts after a series of stores have begun charging to send back purchases.

The retail industry is experiencing a shift with increased e-commerce activity. Last year, several high street stores began charging for e-commerce product returns, allowing them to better manage returned goods and prevent waste.

Zara and Boohoo were among those who introduced return charges in 2022. The Hut Group, which owns Lookfantastic, also introduced a return charge of £2.99 per order. Next also increased its fees for returns.

During the pandemic, some online retailers saw their return rates slashed in half or more due to the nature of the products bought (leisurewear, pyjamas, and sportswear) and consumers not venturing out to the post office. However, since the pandemic, returns have surged.

Danni Hewson, Financial Analyst at AJ Bell, commented: "For years, customers have treated fast fashion retailers as a two-stage transaction. Buy multiple sizes of the same items and send back the ones that don’t fit. This is costing a lot of money and the only way to discourage this activity is to start charging customers to return products. Although this action risks dampening demand, more retailers are going down this path and so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary."

Clothing companies are supportive advocates for the policy after a surge in returns following the growth of online sales. KPMG estimates that by 2020, up to half of the clothing bought online was being returned. This was costing businesses around £7 billion every year. Now, shipping delays following Royal Mail strikes are putting more pressure on stores tackling returns during the Christmas period.

According to’s latest report, "With e-commerce, about 30% of fashion orders are returned, according to global strategists Roland Berger, so more sales means more returns. And with the true cost of returns estimated to be around £20 for a £30 item, returns are expected to cost British fashion retailers some £7 billion this year."

The report uncovers the true cost of returns and offers multiple solutions for reducing the amount of returned goods.

Download's report here.

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