Home » Delivery and returns key battlegrounds for UK fashion retailers, report stresses – InternetRetailing

Delivery and returns key battlegrounds for UK fashion retailers, report stresses – InternetRetailing

Delivery and returns key battlegrounds for UK fashion retailers, report stresses – InternetRetailing

The challenges of cost and complexity within delivery and returns remain significant for retailers, the newly published RetailX UK Fashion Sector Report 2024 has highlighted.

Although shoppers might be moving away from the concept of fast fashion the habit of wanting it fast and free is less difficult to shed. 

Customers are almost unanimous in the importance of fast delivery for fashion, footwear and accessories. More than a third (37.3%) rate it as very important and more than half (54.4%) say that it is somewhat important to them. 

Willingness to pay for fast delivery, such as next day, varies, however. Only 19% pay extra all or most of the time and 42% pay extra some of the time. Customers, unsurprisingly, still want free delivery where they can.

Alternative delivery options
This means retailers serving the UK fashion market are doing all that they can to help consumers better manage delivery costs. Ship from store continues to be a popular option for retailers that will have more variances in stock than other retail sectors, such as size, fit and colour.

More sustainable delivery options other than delivery to home are also being introduced. Recent research suggests that more than half of UK consumers are now using delivery lockers for online purchases of which fashion will make up a large proportion. The numbers rise for younger consumers. 

Retailers are also fighting to get customers back to store. Here click and collect can be a good option to help offer the opportunity of upselling and cross-selling when a customer comes to collect their online orders. 

Primark announced in April 2023 that it would expand its click-and-collect service to all 184 stores by the end of 2025, following an 18-month trial that had begun in 25 stores in North West England, North Wales and Yorkshire in November 2022.

The challenge of returns
Retailers are also trying to get shoppers to head to store to better manage their online returns since it is where processing costs can quickly inflate. Directing shoppers instore also helps retailers to upsell more easily, as well as providing shoppers with alternatives immediately, especially where style, colour or fit might be an issue.

The challenges of style, colour or fit inevitably make clothing, footwear and accessories more likely to be returned. Bracketing, where customers over-order to accommodate this and add sizes either side of their normal measurements, for example, is rife in online fashion purchasing. 

Returns behaviour underestimated
Yet it seems that consumers might be somewhat in denial of this habit, with only 16.5% claiming that they sometimes deliberately order more items than they want to keep. This suggests that they see such shopping habits as simply a consequence of ordering fashion online, rather than a more planned behaviour.

 But an easy returns process is essential for fashion and accessories shoppers buying online, especially when they might be looking to return such items and get their money back when they have overordered for size. 

Our research shows that, in total, 88% of fashion shoppers rate easy returns as important. More than half of them (46%) say this is very important. Retailers are working hard to reduce returns by tackling the reasons for them, such as incorrect sizing and fit or product quality. 

According to research from The British Fashion Council, 23mn returned garments were either sent to landfill or incinerated in the UK in 2022. The figure accounted for 75% of the 3% of returns that can’t be resold.

This is one feature in the brand new RetailX UK Fashion 2024 report, it also looks at how customers are buying both online and instore, with the share of offline purchasing continuing to increase as the offline/online balance has normalised after the pandemic.

The report also covers the growth in social commerce, with consumers not only influenced by social media as to what to buy, but more than half buying fashion through Facebook. TikTok isn’t far behind.

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