Fashion sales returns – what is the solution?

Asos is one of dozens of retailers that admits to tightening its fashion sales returns policy in 2019, as figures reveal that 26% of brands have recorded an increase in returns over the last two years. Indeed, returns are increasingly problematic for fashion brands, particularly online – Barclaycard revealed that the UK takes back £7bn worth of purchases every year.

Writing in Drapers, Katie Imms says that the fashion sales returns trend “has been heightened by the increasing trend to ‘snap and send back’ – consumers buy an outfit solely to post on social media, before returning it.”

Stating that ‘unusual patterns’ could be investigated which may lead to refund refusal – or worse, closing of an account – ASOS have politely updated their website with new rules. Lengthening the time to return to 45 days, ASOS keeps genuine customer’s needs front of mind, but delivers a powerful message that those abusing the system are being monitored.

But amidst all the media stories, let’s not forget the legitimate reasons for returning product – wrong size, doesn’t suit me, arrived damaged – an endless list of why a consumer hasn’t chosen to purchase a particular item.

So what can brands do? At Fashion SVP last year, we heard from Kim Winser OBE of Winser London who had two brilliant tips for brands:

  • Slight oversizes. Winser London make sure there is slightly more room in each item than if they were a precise fit. For ecommerce, especially high ticket fashion items, returns are high because often the items are slightly too tight for the wearer….Winser London tries to avoid this by oversizing each item….just slightly….but enough to reduce returns. It works.
  • Add an element of stretch fabric. A smart #hack this, but by adding an element of stretch fabric to every item in her clothing range, once again there is more chance of a garment fitting and fewer returns.

Kim Winser used to annually order £1Bn (yes, billion) worth of clothes as head of fashion for M&S. She knows what she’s talking about.

As for us at i.LEVEL, we know from speaking to our client fashion brands that fashion sales returns are a huge issue. That’s why we launched our Customer Returns Section last year, allowing brands to manage more effectively the return of unwanted, unused and/or faulty products.

The section is for wholesale only (not concessions) and includes the ability to identify individual customers alongside the reasons for the return and allocate them to the source, supplier or factory. This helps determine whether the problem rests with a fault with the clothing item itself at the source of production. If faulty, our Customer Returns Section allocates it back to the factory concerned.

A valuable feature is a reporting structure which lets a fashion brand analyse hundreds of returns in one go. This helps identify key patterns in returns and empowers a fashion brand to quickly implement solutions, for example, if one single supplier is primarily at fault.

If you manage a fashion wholesale brand and have noticed a surge in customer returns, it might be time to look at a new approach. Contact us on 01234 761 757, email  or DM us using our Twitter handle @ilevelSoftware. We’d be glad to demo our fashion wholesale returns section, both face-to-face or via Skype.

Alternately, come and meet us at Fashion SVP in late June.



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