Fast fashion giant H&M has eliminated free returns for online purchases in the UK, where customers will now be required to pay £1.99 for both parcel and in-store returns. However, members of H&M’s customer platform don’t have to pay, and it’s free to register online.
H&M CEO Helena Helmersson said last fall that the company was considering charging for returns in an effort to reduce costs.
H&M joins Zara and Uniqlo in a growing list of retailers that are reconsidering their return policy as shipping costs have surged since the pandemic. Logistics experts say on average, about 20 to 30 percent of online fashion purchases are returned — far higher than the return rate for in-store transactions.
To curb the costs associated with reverse logistics, retailers can also consider partnering with return aggregation services like Happy Returns and Narvar, raising their free shipping threshold to eliminate impulse purchases, or using fit technology to improve more accurate online sizing.
The increasing consensus around return fees, however, signal that the most direct method of offsetting costs may be the most effective one.
Is This the Beginning of the End for Free Returns?
For much of the last two decades, online retailers have competed to offer cheaper, more convenient shopping experiences. What happens when one of the world’s biggest apparel sellers bucks the trend?