Clothes shopping online is a wonderful innovation in so many ways. You can browse with a lot more ease, see far more than you would if you took a trip to physical shops, and in many cases enjoy next-day delivery right to your door.
The problem is that, even with the pictures and videos of the clothes being worn by people, you don’t really have any idea how they’ll fit you personally. So how successful is it really? Do we actually keep what we buy?
According to the McKinsey consultancy’s annual State of Fashion report, women who buy jeans online return them 70% to 80% of the time. In Germany, the return rate of clothing bought is about 50%, although in the UK the figure is a bit lower. Even so, it was reported that in 2018 returns were costing UK retailers £60 billion a year. That figure only looks likely to grow as more and more retailers adopt try-now-pay-later schemes.
The try-now-pay-later schemes allow customers to order as many items as they like, have them delivered, try them on at home, and then return the items they don’t want without paying a thing. The money for the clothes they do want only leaves their accounts when the returned items have been processed, so in theory consumers can ‘buy’ clothes indefinitely without paying a thing.
The cost of returns for retailers is high, and it does cut into their profits. However, with the bonus that shoppers can buy with greater peace of mind (knowing that they can return what doesn’t suit them) there will in all likelihood be an uplift in sales to offset the cost of returns. After all, research found that 76% of consumers would “definitely” or “maybe” purchase more items if offered a try-before-you-buy scheme.
So, given that there will be an easier returns policy, will that mean that online clothes shopping will be seen as preferable to all other kinds? Or will we always enjoy going on a Saturday afternoon shopping trip? There are certainly pros and cons to both.