Free returns, it’s over! some thoughts… – Down to earth

Recently, Zara, from the Inditex group, then H&M, two heavyweights from the fast fashion* announced that free returns (excluding store returns) have ended. Others will follow. I thought: finally! Since this offer, purely dictated by marketing to compete with other commercial sites, was launched, consumers used it and then abused it: some, for example, ordered, without thinking or measuring, the same item in 3 sizes. Others confessed to feeling valued for this kind of unlimited, non-binding purchasing power.

the covid effect

Unsurprisingly, store closures, lockdowns and telecommuting have prodigiously accelerated fashion e-commerce, a sort of compensation for various frustrations. I remember seeing a young woman explain to the journalist who was interviewing her that she loved to receive her packages every day, as a sort of permanent Advent calendar. She ordered several objects and clothes a day to “get a surprise” by opening her boxes.

The selfie effect on social media

This allowed him to take a picture of himself and share his clothes in an abundance of selfies on the networks. Depending on feedback (and her finances or closets), she would sometimes select an item to keep, but then send nearly all of them back.

The unexpected effect

I note that this has not escaped the notice of the main producers of the fast fashion that drew two conclusions from this: influencers were set up to advertise on those networks and they increased the rate of collections, at the same time they announced that it was capsule collections (understand: limited in stock and duration of sale), they set up two very effective points of sale: rarity and urgency.

” Quick! Enjoy it now! Tomorrow will be too late! Only 2 days left to order! etc » so many injunctions aimed at creating the desire for compulsive shopping. There was a parallel acceleration of private sales, pre-sales, sales, stock clearance and other Black Fridays.

The target audience is the very young, more “malleable”, lively, very reactive and even impulsive, and for whom appearance is a powerful supporter in the search for identity and belonging.

Of fast fashion at the super fast fashion

Aware of the financial limits of their target audience, some brands then developed super-cheap and ultra-fast sub-brands (e.g. Pretty Little Things, Boohoo), moving to a frightening rate of 12 days maximum manufacturing between 2 collections, at a bargain price. prices (average of 15 francs/euros per piece), of very poor quality. Produced in defiance of the rights of those who make them on the assembly line, in clandestine workshops and run by powerful organizations in non-rights areas, in the heart of Europe, in Britain in particular. We are witnessing a disaster: disposable fashion…. that you can’t even sell second-hand.

The returns… of the boomerang

Certainly the orders exploded, but the signals were literally crushed by the magnitude of the returns, which they could no longer verify: there is no more time, there are not enough employees, there is not enough space, what to do with the accumulated stocks?

This free returns policy very quickly got out of hand, including for the biggest players like Amazon, who decided to ban from their site – without notifying them in advance – certain returning customers too often.

We then discovered that many commercial sites simply destroyed the returned boxes with their content, unfortunately the logical consequence of this delusional frenzy: faster and cheaper. Scary deviations.

Needless to say, this is a financial trap for brands and e-commerce players either way.

However, no environmental or social considerations!

When we know that the textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, which constitutes a sector that combines bad practices (exploitation of people and resources, spying on creators, industrial forgery, irreversible pollution, wage dumping, etc.) altar of massive and immediate profit, we understand that the recent shift to return to paid returns (plus, still too cheap to be really a deterrent to e-shopping bulimics) is just a blow-up for producer actors. It is by no means a global awareness of the problem… which they laugh at like their first socks.

Gray energy and carbon footprint

If we were to calculate the embodied energy** expended and the carbon footprint of a package and its contents, we would be justifiably shocked. Bulky postal traffic has exploded, which has multiplied transport in particular, cardboard is consumed in excess and wasted, plastic is everywhere as it surrounds every item shipped, the electricity consumption of both servers and manufacturing machines is considerable , and I’m not talking about the use of water resources… The results are catastrophic.

Explain, again and again…

In short, it would be more than time to explain in detail consumers what triggers such an easy click from your computer…!

And in particular the younger generations, victims of this aberrant system in various ways. If they don’t know what they’re getting into, you can’t decently blame them.

They trample the planet they would like to save. It is therefore urgent to teach them the notion of positive responsibility, showing them clearly the hidden stages of these channels, in most of their aspects. so that they can exercise truth their free will, keeping Feet on the ground.

* Fashion produced in the form of successive collections at an increasingly fast pace (fast fashion and ultra fast fashion)

** Total energy consumed during the life cycle of a product, from the extraction and production of the materials that constitute it, through all the successive stages: transformation, manufacture, transport, storage, distribution, recovery, recycling, disposal. These data are, for the most part, ignored by consumers, who mainly consider the so-called energy use. However, it is much more important than the latter, but very little visible to the public.

***To see. Gillles Bovon and Edouard Perrin’s documentary:

Fast fashion, trendy underwear at low prices. First Lines / Art co-production.

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