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What actually happens to your returned clothes

We’ve all done it. You've given in to your online shopping addiction and ordered tons of clothes and shoes online. A few days later your order arrives and your home fashion show can begin! 

When you notice that part of your order is not what you expected, the return hassle begins. Luckily you can return it for free. You get your money back and someone else get to be happy with your returned purchases…That’s how we think it goes, though. 

Unfortunately...... it runs a little differently. 

Shopping experience over the environement 

All retailers take different steps when it comes to processing returns. Some accept returns for free, others give you back your money without having you return the items. Some ask for a small fee. No matter how the return process goes, all retailers want to provide their customers with a great shopping experience. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost of many things, including the environment. 

What many people don't know is that a return often travels through several countries to get back to the retailer, who most likely won't even put the items back on the store shelves.

Why not ask yourself? 

In only a few cases do the clothes stay in storage until the sale begins. This way it gets a second life. In one of our blogs, we've shared a few tips on how you, as a pre-loved fashion enthusiast, can shop sustainably. This time around, we want to focus on the bigger fish: retailers.

Unfortunately, in many cases returned goods go straight to a landfill or even worse, retailers choose for the even more profitable option: to destroy the items.
In only a few cases is it permissible to destroy clothing and that is after inspection declares the clothing unwearable due to, for example, mold and bacteria.

The easy way out

Retailer choose to destroy their returned goods, not only because it is more economical, but also because it can fall into the hands of someone whose goal it is to damage the reputation of another brand. This has already happened regularly with high-end brand Burberry

Not only Burberry has had to deal with people who deliberately want to harm the brand. Different high-end brands and fast-fashion brands such as H&M, Nike and Urban Outfitters have to deal with this regularly. They have all released a statement several times stating they destroy clothing as it is not "fit to recycle", but actually because they fear that others will damage the brand, sell it cheaper, start counterfeiting, etc.

Fortunately, the woke culture of the fashion industry, is waking up and this unsustainable, unethical behavior is not going unnoticed. As a result, companies, including Burberry felt compelled to rethink their return process. They came out with a statement in their annual report of 2018-2019 declaring to stop destroying clothes, effective immediately.

How to prevent and handle returns

There are, of course, plenty of more sustainable solutions to abandoning clothing, but retailers almost always choose the quickest and cheapest option: incineration and destruction. In the blog of last week we shared a few tips on how you, as a retailer, can prevent returns from coming in. Below a short summary:

- Prevent customers from buying the wrong product. Make sure your product description, product photo and policies are clear to avoid confusion.

- Prep and motivate your staff to offer the best possible customer care support to clients. This way you can ensure customer loyalty and trust in your brand. 

- Gather data on returns and adjust the products accordingly. 

- Respect the 7R's of circular economy! According to the circular economy, to which we fully adhere, we create more value through a model of production and consumption in which existing materials and products are recycled, refused, recovered, re-gifted, repaired, re-used, and reduced, for as long as possible.

Brands like Carhartt have taken the lead in reducing their negative impact on the environment. They are doing this together with The Renewal Workshop, an organization that repairs clothing and recycles fabrics to ultimately reduce waste. 

How do you think returned goods should be processed? Let us know below!


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