Are ‘Serial Returners’ destroying your profit?
David Miles

March 12, 2023

wardrobing: The practice of purchasing an item, wearing or using it, and returning it for a refund.

Wardrobing is actually a form of return fraud, and it’s most often done with expensive clothing, which is where the name originated. Clothing is still the most ‘wardrobed’ item, followed by electronics and shoes.

Maybe it’s for a special occasion; maybe it’s for a killer social media post; maybe it’s to impress people; it could be a sign of our obsession with instant gratification.

Did you know at least one in nine shoppers have ordered an item just to take a photo for a social media post before returning it?

With over 500 million daily users on Instagram alone, that figure will only increase. The pressure to be seen wearing the latest brands, to imitate favorite celebrities is staggering. Unfortunately, the generation that has been the most frantic in trying to live up to that pressure is usually the same one that does not have the funds to sustain it past their social media accounts. Maybe you’re trying to break into the world of Instagram influencing, naturally, you’re tempted to purchase from one of the hottest brands of the moment, keep the tags on, take an amazing photo, post it and get a ton of interest and likes and return the item as if you never wore it.

No harm is done, right?


Research has found that almost a third of stores in the UK alone have seen a notable increase in serial returns that can cost the online retail market billions every year.

‘Wardrobing’ is now causing a significant amount of that. For a lot of retailers, a single return means they will make a loss on that item. Over the course of a financial year that can add up to potentially 13% of online businesses’ profits. It’s not difficult to see how specialist online retailers can easily fall into hardship due to the crippling influx of return costs.

Online retailers are starting to take action, looking out for unusual patterns in returns activity. Online fashion giant, ASOS, has updated its return policy, extending the return period from 28 to 45 days. This may seem like a counter-intuitive move. They’ve always had the 28-day policy, now however if you choose to return an item within the 29–45 days period you will receive store credit. They have also reworded their policy stating ‘…We also need to make sure our free returns remain sustainable for us and the environment, so if we notice an unusual pattern, we might investigate and take action.’ Taking action could mean deactivating an account or being added to their blacklist of ‘serial returners’ which would block access to the site altogether.

There are now also multiple options for tagging your clothing items. Tags which can be easily removed if you want to wear and keep the item, but are conspicuously placed and are required to still be attached if you want to return the item. Ideally, the placement of the tag on the garment would deter shoppers from being able to wear the garment if the tag cannot be removed.

A lot of smaller businesses will offer store credit only for returns. Unless the customer can prove the item was faulty upon purchasing, in which case they should be refunded. However, offering store credit keeps the customer wearing or using an item from your store, which hopefully encourages repeat business, and costs the retailer less overall.

Hopefully, this ‘wardrobing’ crackdown we are witnessing will expand further until it is inevitably ‘the norm’.

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