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Is now the time for fashion retailers to block customers who return too many items?

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It has, sadly, become ever-more apparent that many fashion, luxury and lifestyle brands need to be doing much more than they are presently doing, in order to rise to the challenges posed by an ever-more acute climate crisis. 

However, associated with this realisation has been much debate as to what constitutes a proportionate response to the pressures the fashion sector exerts on our planet. 

With that in mind, it certainly interested our own Shopify agency for high-end brands, to read recently that the Sweden-based online fashion store Boozt AB had taken the step of blocking 42,000 customers for returning too many items. 

As reported by Yahoo! News, the retailer cited the excessive returns as representing too great an expense for both the company itself and the environment. 

Company spokesperson Ask Kirkeskov Riis said shoppers who were subject to an indefinite block had returned items either because they didn’t fit, or due to regretting the purchase. 

He added that the customers at fault “repeatedly exploit the high service levels of free shipping and returns at the expense of our business, other customers and the environment”.  

What level of environmental damage were the returns to Boozt causing? 

Such is the complexity of how the environmental implications of product returns unfold, that it is difficult to provide a single, quantified answer to this question. 

Nonetheless, Boozt cited some intriguing data on this matter. The store claimed that although the individuals it had blocked accounted for fewer than 2% of the shopping channel’s over three-million-strong customer base, they represented approximately a quarter of the total return volume. 

The firm’s spokesperson went on to say that the decision to pause the accounts of these shoppers and minimise unnecessary returns had enabled it to save around 791 tons in CO2 last year. According to the business, the policy “eliminated the need for approximately 600 delivery trucks during one year”. 

That certainly seems to us like a hefty environmental cost, and there is other data to support the notion that return rates can be especially high for online fashion stores. 

The Retail Technology Show, for instance, polled more than 1,000 shoppers in the UK, and discovered that the average customer returned 15% of items purchased online. But with regard to fashion returns specifically, the rate was nearer 30%. 

It was found through the same research that 6% of respondents had been blocked by a brand due to serial returning, with 15% of Generation Z shoppers having faced such bans. 

Doubtless, much discussion will rage as to whether Boozt’s action in this particular regard is too heavy-handed, is proportionate to the environmental impact high levels of returns have, or does not go far enough. 

Still, as far as we are concerned here at Skywire London, the figures certainly point to this being a massive issue that will not go away for fashion retailers anytime soon. 

Skywire London could help position your fashion or luxury brand for growth

If you would appreciate the advice and support of a strategic digital agency that has been instrumental in empowering a wide range of businesses in the fashion and related sectors to success, there is little need for you to look further than Skywire London. 

Enquire to our renowned Shopify agency for high-end brands today via phone or email, and we will be pleased to discuss the possibilities for how our organisations could most effectively work together. 


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