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UK consumers are "happy" to pay for returns if used to subsidise greener e-commerce

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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New research from ReBound, which helps the likes of Asos manage returns, has revealed that 69 percent of UK consumers are happy to pay to return unwanted fashion purchases, as long as the money was used to subsidise more environmentally friendly return options.

ReBound and CensusWide surveyed more than 1,000 online shoppers and found that while online consumers may be happy to pay for returns, shoppers also have a clear limit on what they are willing to spend to return unwanted items. Around half (48 percent) said that they were happy to pay at least an extra 50 pence per return for a sustainable return method, with just 22 percent stating they would pay more than 1 pound in additional fees.

The survey also added that more than half (54 percent) of online shoppers say they plan to limit their own spending over the next 12 months to reduce their environmental impact. 61 percent added they plan to focus their spending on retailers offering sustainable delivery and returns options.

Overall, ReBound found that 87 percent of consumers said they would also prefer to use sustainable delivery options if these were offered by brands and retailers. When asked to name who they believe should share the responsibility for making online returns more environmentally sustainable, 81 percent of consumers selected retailers and brands, while 44 percent chose delivery carriers, and 23 percent said shoppers themselves should share in the responsibility.

This new data comes as big brands including Boohoo and Zara announce paid-for returns and ReBound adds that the volumes of online fashion returns coming back to UK brands and retailers is currently 55 percent higher than this time in 2021.

Emily Cotterill, head of sustainability at ReBound, said in a statement: “Fashion retail is facing a flood of returns and the tide keeps rising, so it’s no surprise to see brands exploring new policies such as charging for returns. While there has been some initial backlash to recent announcements of paid-for returns, this research highlights that consumers are willing to pay if they know their money is subsidising a more environmentally-friendly delivery and returns option.

“However, brands have a responsibility to educate shoppers on the benefits of paying for these sustainable measures and must be transparent in what the extra money is funding- whether that’s electric vehicle transportation, or carbon offsetting measures. The door is open to subsidised sustainable returns and there’s an opportunity for fashion brands to take the lead, clearly demonstrate how the extra money can make a tangible difference and shape consumer attitudes. Success will support healthier bottom lines and a more environmentally sustainable ecommerce sector in the long term.”