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LONDON – Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M has become the latest brand to begin charging shoppers who return items purchased online. In a move which many analysts expected, customers are now being asked to pay £1.99 to return parcels either in store or online. This cost is taken from their refund, however, H&M says returns are still free for members.

H&M follows in the footsteps of competitors such as Zara, Boohoo, Uniqlo and Next which already charge for returns.

The pandemic saw online shopping rise dramatically. Many fashion retailers closed their bricks and mortar stores and implemented a strategic shift towards online sales. Legacy brands such as H&M are still playing catch-up with pure online players such as Shein, Temu and Boohoo, however.

Al Gerrie, CEO of ZigZag Global, shared his thoughts on the move by H&M with Apparel Insider, saying: “It is no surprise to see H&M introducing paid returns following the precedent set by Boohoo and Zara last year. At ZigZag we’ve seen more of our retailers exploring paid returns options as they look to recoup some of the costs of returns. What’s also interesting is our data shows that consumers are still willing to buy from a retailer if they charge for returns – promising signs for H&M. Interestingly our latest shopper research also shows that over 70 per cent of 18-25 year olds are also happy to accept store credit to shop again if it is offered. 

“We expect to see paid returns grow as we head into the peak season of Black Friday, Christmas and January sales. That’s not to say free returns are dead in the water, but we will see less of them. As paid returns increase, retailers could still look to offer free returns as an incentive for loyal subscription customers or higher value goods.

“Free returns have been expected for many years but it’s a costly practice for retailers. Instead I expect to see retailers providing more flexibility with return options like collect from home or return to store, to provide the best experiences for shoppers and promote brand loyalty.”

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