January 4th, 2024 | eCommerce

Almost 2 in 5 online clothing stores now charge for returns

With the festive season over and the gifts received whilst most will be happy with their purchases many will be looking to return items over the next week or so. Royal Mayal predicting a 52% jump on the first working day of Jan for returns in 2024. 

Whilst this is to be expected, oftentimes managing the higher refunding and returning of items which is inevitable when more products are bought as gifts can be a tricky thing to manage from a stock perspective, and the fashion industry is one of the sectors with the highest return rate. 

Here we compare the length of the ‘cooling off’ period and the number of the top 100 fashion e-commerce brands that offer free online returns vs those that charge. We took the top 100 sites within Google to get a strong perspective on the top brands in the sphere. 


Percentage free returns
Percentage free returns

The data shows that almost 2 in 5 (39%) of the analysed companies no longer offer free online returns for their websites, this could have a big impact on shoppers looking to return their purchases over the next month. When looking at data from Google Trends and Glimpse searches for the term ‘free returns’ are up 66% over the previous 5 years indicating that the UK public has grown used to the flexibility and have started seeking it out. 

Cooling off period graph
Cooling off period graph

The length of the returns period offered varies from store to store with 28 days being the most common, 100 days being the longest return period and some only offering the statutory 14 days required by Consumer Contracts regulation being the shortest return period. There were also nuances in the types of returns offered with some only accepting returns through their preferred provider and some refunding the product based on the customer’s own delivery preference. 


Mitigate against the impact of returns

According to Shopify, the average return rate for an e-commerce store is 20-30%, this can have a big impact on margins as their are associated costs with processing the return including: 

The move towards paid for returns seems to be a move by many stores to reduce the costs they face in processing returns. Having a strong warehouse management system that effectively manages these returns will help reduce the marginal costs and increase profit for your business. 

OrderFlow offers warehouse management solutions for 3PLs and a range of other industries, get in touch to find out more.


*The above data was collected from the top 100 results that appeared in a Google search for ‘clothing’, this was a UK-based search and the companies may vary from user to user 

**Data collected and correct as of Jan 2024 

***The full dataset can be found here