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MANCHESTER – Online fast fashion retailer Boohoo has become the latest brand to start charging shoppers for returning items. Boohoo customers will now have to pay £1.99 to return products, with the money deducted from their refund. Other retailers which have started charging for returned items include Uniqlo, Next and Zara.

Many other fashion retailers can be expected to follow suit, especially in fast fashion where the low price of clothing means the cost of processing returns often represents a disproportionately large amount of the price of the garment returned.

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Boohoo said the move is in response to the rising cost of shipping. Like other fashion brands, the business has also been battling with huge return rates, with many customers ordering various types and sizes of clothing, trying them on and returning the ones they don’t want. As well as raising costs for retailers, this growing trend also raises the question of what happens to all the returned items, the answer to which nobody is entirely sure.

“Shoppers have had an easy ride, but that’s changing now – they will increasingly find there’s a price to pay for returns,” Catherine Shuttleworth, retail expert and founder of Savvy Marketing told BBC News.

“The costs, both financially and environmentally, have been stacking up for retailers… So retailers have been tightening up their returns policy by reducing the number of days a shopper can keep an item before expecting a return and in some cases charging a return fee,” she added.

“We can expect to see this trend continuing and [now] we’ve seen Boohoo quietly introduce it. If you buy something for £10 at Boohoo, it’s a real disincentive to return it if you lose £2, 20% of your investment to send it back.”

In May, Boohoo claimed that soaring returns were partly to blame for a slump in its annual profits. The business has seen its share price plummet this past 12-months amid strong competition from Shein.

Boohoo said customers had returned items faster than expected in the second half of the year, with the rate higher than it was before the pandemic.

Boohoo brands include BoohooMan, Karen Millen, Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, Coast, Misspap, Oasis, Warehouse, Burton, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams.

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