European fashion brand Zara recently announced it will charge U.S. customers for returning online purchases to third-party drop-off points. According to Zara’s website, U.S. customers who placed orders from June 1 onwards will be charged $3.95 to return online purchases to third-party drop-off points. The cost will be deducted from the refund amount. Customers can still return online purchases to any Zara store free of charge. In both cases, customers have 30 days from the shipping date of their order to return their purchase from Zara.com,. and the items should have all tickets attached and be in perfect condition. Zara also launched this program in the U.K. and it’s also in place in other European markets, including Belgium and the Netherlands.
Total Retail’s Take: It will be interesting to see if Zara’s decision to charge for select product returns becomes a trend that other retailers follow. Retailers’ response to returns is usually to make it as easy as possible for customers to return items, but this sentiment may be changing as businesses grapple with increased fuel, materials and other supply chain costs. And returns aren’t going away anytime soon. Last year, shoppers were expected to return over $761 billion in merchandise, with about $218 billion coming from online purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. And the category with one of the highest return rates was clothing. The reason? Many consumers have gotten into the habit of buying several of the same product, in different sizes, colors, etc., trying them on, and then sending back those they don’t want without having to pay a penalty. Therefore, experts are applauding this move by Zara as a smart way to reduce costs without alienating its loyal customers. After all, if Zara — one of the biggest international fashion companies in the world — can charge for returns, others may follow.