Serial returners cause problems for shops

woman with shopping bags Image copyright Oli Scarff, Getty Images
Image caption More than a quarter of items returned can't be resold, retailers say

"I return half of what I buy," says 30-year-old Alex Demetri, who spends £500 to £700 on clothes each month.

She also admits to wearing some of her clothes first before returning them.

It is customers like Ms Demetri who are causing problems for shops, which are "struggling to cope" with the number of items returned, new research suggests.

So-called "serial returners" are bringing back items which have been used, are marked or have parts missing, making a quarter of it unfit to resell.

Despite the problems, the majority of retailers still give refunds because they want to keep customers happy, according to the research from Barclaycard which surveyed more than 2,000 people.

The credit card firm found around a fifth of firms had created a system for stock they couldn't resell, including partnering with another firm to resell items at a loss, or moving to a bigger warehouse to store excess stock.

Risky policy?

Some firms are fighting back, the research suggests, with almost four in 10 retailers saying they charge for returns to discourage shoppers from sending back non-faulty items.

It is a policy that could backfire. More than a third of consumers said charging for returns would put them off shopping somewhere.

Almost half of those questioned also said they wanted refunds rather than credit notes and 40% said they'd prefer a longer window for returns.

Image copyright Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Ms Demetri, who works in marketing, and shops in her lunch hour, at weekends and online, says she chooses where to shop partly based on how returns are treated.

But she also gets around shops which have an exchange or credit note policy for returns by shopping online where she says sending things back is normally more straightforward.

"A lot of shops have different policies and taking things back in shops can be really time consuming. I tend to buy online because it makes it a bit more straightforward," she says.

She says lack of time to try things on before buying, not liking something as much as she thought she did and realising she's spent too much money all drive her to return items.

Sometimes, she says she has worn something a couple of times before realising that she's left the label on.

"I think actually I don't like this as much as I thought I did, let's take it back. Amongst a whole load of other stuff [the shop] won't notice it's a bit more worn or a bit more creased," she says.

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