Zara has started charging customers who return items bought online as fast fashion giants face increasing pressure to reduce unsustainable behaviour.
The retailer, owned by the world’s largest fashion company Inditex, has introduced a £1.95 fee for the return of products at third party drop off points.
However, customers can still return online orders at any Zara store free of charge, which a spokesperson said was what “most customers do.”
It is understood the retailer has introduced the measure to reduce the environmental impact of ‘last mile’ transport and wants to encourage shoppers to return clothes to stores.
Fast fashion retailer Boohoo admitted shoppers were returning clothes more than expected in its latest results, causing its share price to further plunge.
The fast fashion industry is coming under more scrutiny for its detrimental environmental impact.
“Fundamentally, returns are a massive issue in terms of clothing waste and fashion’s impact on the planet,” Ali Moore, from the non-profit sustainable fashion campaign Love Not Landfill, told CityA.M.
Fashion production makes up 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions with the industry emitting more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Moore added: “Everytime clothes get returned, if they are damaged or stained in the process, it’s difficult to put them back out onto the shop floor as it were.
“The problem of online shopping and returns is getting worse. People order multiple items and use their bedrooms as changing rooms. It contributes to textile waste and that’s a real problem.”
The campaign group would watch with “real interest” to see if the charge helps improve sustainable shopping. However, Moore said she had “no idea” whether a charge would be “the right intervention or not.”
Retailers H&M and boohoo said they would not comment when asked by CityA.M. if they could rule out introducing similar charges.
While returns were not a new issue for retailers with an online presence, rising logistics costs meant there was “some logic” in expecting customers to “pay for returns in the same way they would fund their own journey to the store,” Fraser Thorne, chief executive, Edison Group said.
He added: “However, this is against a backdrop of incredibly strong headwinds for the consumer sector and it takes a confident brand to increase costs to the customer at a time when they are counting every penny.”
Analysis of some 200 UK retailers by parcelLab found that some 76 per cent of brands offered free returns.