What happens to returned clothes, really?
In theory items should be sent back to the warehouse, cleaned, and be ready to be sold on to a new customer.
The reality is very different as after these garments have been shipped out to you and back again, the product more than likely won't even make it back onto the shelf. You can guess where they end up… that’s right, Landfill.
51% of consumers consciously buy more items knowing they will return them. Often you might buy two dresses in the same size to ensure it fits correctly, or buy to try on items to see if you like them.This all adds to landfill. This way of buying clothes is so popular now, it has it’s own name, bracketing.
So why don’t retailers just resell the items?
Simple and probably quite obvious, the cost outweighs the ethics. The amount we are returning costs retailers £60bn per year. To be able to keep these items out of landfill, retailers will need extra warehouses and employees to sort through all of the returns. Also, because retailers are putting out so many new items per week, by the time the return has gone through the reverse supply chain the item will most likely need to be put on sale.
What’s the solution?
Honestly there is not a perfect one size fits all solution here. As we have said and will continue to say ,retailers are driven by consumer behaviour. Until we change how we shop, how often and who we spend our money with the problem will not go away.
What practical steps can I take when buying or returning?
- Look in your own wardrobe first - you may already have something similar to what you are wanting to buy
- Know the sizing - buy from brands that you are comfortable enough to know which size you are
- Be really mindful - if you are planning to try something completely new and out of the ordinary why not swap or borrow that item instead?
- Buy local and small - smaller companies are more likely to resell their returns and also be more efficient with helping you to get the correct size in the first place