Clothing Returns: a hidden ecological disaster

What happens when you see “Free returns” on the product you’re just about to order?

You’re probably delighted. In fact, free returns have become a staple in attracting customers’ attention. A free return gives you peace of mind and incentive to keep buying. Because why wouldn’t you want to save a little money in the process?

Not surprisingly, 75% of shoppers have expressed that they lean towards brands that make the online return process quick and easy. While not explicitly mentioned, a free return policy surely finds its place in consumer preferences.

At the same time, only 25% of global brands offer free returns.


Well, it costs a lot.

Why returns can be a fashion brand or a designer’s worst enemy


By “costs a lot”, we mean $550 billion in the US alone by 2020, which is 75% more than the previous four years according to statistics portal Statista. Throw in the rise of the “habitual returner” – a customer who orders knowing fully that they will be returning the product, and you have a full-on “returns disease” that plagues global brands.

Can’t imagine the profile of a “habitual returner”?

Aside from regular people, think of YouTube vloggers. They often do “clothing hauls” for their viewers. What usually happens is that they return the majority of their purchase afterwards, which generates a total logistical nightmare for the brand.

It’s not only the act of returning – returned items also often involve a delicate recovery process. Returns can be damaged, dirty and a total loss for the company depending on how long it was used for…and in what way, of course.

Making them look like new again can be a serious time and money investment for brands and designers.

Returns: a hidden ecological disaster

The eco movement has been growing steadily over the last few years. In fact, we ourselves are very keen supporters of this. Being environmentally friendly has always been a policy for us, ever since we started our first project – the ATTITUDE157 brand.

Returns might seem harmless, but they can contribute a lot to environmental decline.

In many cases, distribution center managers don’t know whether to send returns to the vendor, into inventory, or simply discard them. In many cases, it’s the latter and returns end up piling up as waste.

We’re not talking about a modest amount of waste.

Clothing returns: a hidden ecological disaster

As the CEO of Optoro, a company focused on consumer returns elaborates, we’re talking about more than 4 billion pounds of waste in the US only.

Policies in the packaging department vary across brands too. For every more socially responsible company like Zara – who ships their clothes in recyclable boxes, there are others who use individual plastic wrappings or don’t recycle returned goods properly.

We can’t ignore the excess transportation involved in the returning process too. As you can guess, there are a lot of logistics involved, and rising returns mean more fumes, more pollution…and a less healthy environment for all of us.

What about returns and the customer?

Let’s finally talk about you, the customer.

Did you know that 52% of the clothing returns in the US come due to sizing issues?

Probably you suspected this. Maybe you even anticipated it.

When did we reach the stage of expecting the clothes we buy to not fit us?

At Fit+inch” we see a few obvious reasons for this happening. First, a lot of customers can easily order a few extra pieces – in both color or size, so they can try them all on. The fact that you can do it in the comfort of your home is paramount. You can do it at your own pace, without the stressful pressure of being in that dreaded fitting room.

Often the returned items outweigh those you keep

Clothing returns: a hidden ecological disaster

Of course, after that you keep the clothing that fits and return the ones that didn’t work out. Often the returned items outweigh those you keep – it’s how the equation works.

Normally, brands give you a return window – the most common one is 30 days. In many cases, however, this can totally slip out of your mind or you can fail to find the time to do so. After all, there’s the tedious processing of forms, packing the clothes, going to the post office…

Once the return window has passed, you both lose your money and are left with a piece of clothing you can’t wear. It either takes space in your wardrobe or ends up as trash which speeds up the environmental issues we outlined beforehand.

Last but not least, let’s not forget the frustration. You ordered many clothes and after trying them all on, you were looking forward to dazzling people around you with your fresh wardrobe additions. Yet the majority of them ended up useless due to the confusing world of sizing.

It would be fair to say that returns and customers share a very complicated relationship, right?

Fit+Inch” aims to solve these 3 issues

Clothing returns: a hidden ecological disaster

While we understand the importance of returns, at Fit+Inch” we also realize how important it is to minimize this phenomenon. It will make things better for the consumers, the designers, and last but not least – for our planet too.

Our mission is simple. We help customers find clothing that fits – quick, easy and at your fingertips so you can create your new brilliant look.

At the same time, we understand the pains designers and brands go through because of sizing issues and overwhelming returns. We reduce these costs for you and improve your connection with your customers, while also taking care of your reverse logistics challenges. And ultimately, we not only take care of consumer and designer convenience – we also ensure that our planet sees less waste and more love from its inhabitants.

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