(qlmbusinessnews.com Tues. 11th June, 2024) London, UK —

PLT Scraps Free Returns Amid Cost Pressures: What Shoppers Need to Know

Fast-fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing (PLT) is encountering significant customer backlash following its decision to eliminate free returns. As of last week, UK customers must now pay £1.99 to return items, with the fee deducted from their refund.

This policy change has sparked outrage on social media, with many customers posting screenshots of themselves deleting the PLT app in protest. A common complaint among these customers is the inconsistency in PLT's sizing, which often necessitates ordering multiple sizes of the same item.

Several high street brands, including Zara, Uniqlo, and Next, already charge for online returns. Analysts suggest that retailers are implementing these fees due to rising cost pressures, which might otherwise result in increased product prices.

PLT's new return fee also affects members of its “Royalty” scheme, who pay £9.99 annually for unlimited UK deliveries. The company declined to comment on the backlash.

The move comes after PLT, part of the Boohoo Group, experienced a surge in popularity during the pandemic, largely driven by influencer collaborations, including with Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague. Despite this growth, PLT has faced challenges such as normalising return rates, competition from ultra-fast fashion brands like Shein, and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on customer budgets.

PrettyLittleThing

PLT's sales fell from £712 million to £634 million in the year to 28 February 2023, with profits before tax more than halving. The company attributed this decline to technology upgrades at its Sheffield warehouse.

Retail expert Catherine Shuttleworth noted that returns are a significant issue for fashion retailers, both financially and environmentally. She highlighted that brands need to deter frequent returns or charge customers to cover the associated costs.

Additionally, the rise of buy now, pay later schemes like Klarna and Clearpay has contributed to an increase in returns, as customers often order multiple items, try them on, and return those they don't want without any immediate financial outlay. In response, online retailers are tightening return policies and conducting more stringent inspections of returned items.

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