Testing paid revenue in different countries: H&M boss Helena Helmersson.
Ulrich Rotzingereconomic chief
In most cases, anyone who orders from online retailers can return products for free. Until now. Because a comeback revolution is about to take place here. First companies are free!
For example, returns are no longer valid for the Swedish clothing giant H&M. It is currently being tested in Norway and the UK. Whether other countries will be added depends on how customers react to it, says H&M CEO Helena Helmersson (49) in an interview with the American news agency Bloomberg. Apparently, the Swedish fashion giant is now also testing in Switzerland. On the H&M website, customers are informed of the return costs of 4.90 francs. “The amount will be deducted directly from the refund,” says the service section. However, returns are free for members of the H&M loyalty program.
Competitor Zara has recently introduced online returns fees in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Something was also happening in Switzerland. Since the summer, Zara charges 2.95 francs per returned item if it is not returned at a branch but is sent back through third-party providers such as the post office.
Zalando bets on free culture
Is the return revolution coming to Zalando as well? The shoe and fashion giant recently started working with a minimum order value of CHF 29.90. A Zalanda spokeswoman told Blick: “Free returns have been an important part of our service promise since day one. At the same time, we are working to reduce avoidable returns.» For example, in which Zalando improves size recommendations.
C&A customers can also return goods “free of charge and without reason” in the future. The same applies to footwear and clothing orders from Digitec Galaxus, Switzerland’s largest online retailer. On the other hand, returns from other product areas are subject to a fee. For example, if a customer orders a selection of different children’s games but only wants to keep one, the spokesperson says.
However, the majority of returns are made by fashion retailers, where returns account for up to 60 percent. According to a study recently published by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU), on average one in five articles is returned here. For this purpose, 230 Swiss online retailers were interviewed. It also says: The simpler the return process, the more often the goods are returned.
Returns are a cost factor for companies
When it comes to revenue, companies see the potential for savings. But is it really just cost compensation, as H&M manager Helmersson says? Inspection and review of returns is definitely a cost factor. What is also expensive for companies: if the returned goods can no longer be sold as new at the previous price.
How are revenues compatible with the sustainability to which companies are increasingly committed? Some online retailers reportedly already exclude repeat customers. The authors of the study from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts are unable to find out who is doing it. In many places, the idea of sustainability must give way to competitive pressure.
Reevaluation must come from the customer
The latter still hinders the large turnover of returns in online retail. As long as the vast majority adheres to the free principle, customers will also expect free services, according to the e-commerce industry. The result of the DPD study corresponds to this: Switzerland returns 27.1 percent of purchased goods, making it by far the leader in Europe.
Thomas Wozniak, 42, an e-commerce expert and head of studies at HSLU, doesn’t see eliminating free returns as a solution to avoid returns and shipping waste. Rather, it is important to implement measures such as better size information to limit returns.
However, according to earlier surveys, about half of consumers plan to return a product when placing an order because they want to have a choice of different sizes and items at home. Until there is a rethink here, it will be hard to change anything.