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Free returns policies become less common

06 October 2017 - 09:14 by David Aiken

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Although the opportunity to buy a product via safe shopping online and return it free of charge is seen as immensely valuable by most consumers, a falling number of retailers are actually offering this service to customers.

This is according to the latest figures from ReBound, which focus specifically on fashion outlets and reveal that under a third of the nation’s biggest retailers in this market segment now provide free returns as standard.

A study conducted in the first quarter of the year put this proportion at 55 per cent, suggesting that many major brands are beginning to rescind earlier policies, presumably to stop people exploiting them.

Analysts were critical not only of the falling number of fashion retailers which allow clothing to be returned without charging for postage, but also of the fact that just six per cent of the 200 companies assessed actively publicised their returns policies throughout the experience of safe shopping online.

Retailers which do provide free returns on clothing face the prospect that their customers will buy multiple items in different sizes to try them on at home, then send back the products which do not fit. This costs outlets quite a bit to accommodate and is a habit that many may be keen to quash.

Of course, unless retailers explicitly advertise that a previously available free returns policy has been put to bed, they may end up angering loyal customers. And with so few sites making the effort to explain the terms and conditions of their returns policy at the checkout, dissatisfaction could grow.

In spite of the changes outlined in this report, online fashion sales have enjoyed consistently high growth this year, which might show that consumers are still happy to buy online, even if free returns are not offered.