Lead Forensics

What happens to garment returns?

With the rise of online shopping, the number of product returns has increased significantly across all categories, including clothing. According to a report by the Guardian, one-fifth of all clothes purchased online are returned. Returns can prove to be costly for sellers, and in some cases, they may even exceed the resale value of the items.

Despite this challenge, many online garment retailers offer free returns as not doing so could discourage customers from buying their products. Some customers take advantage of these generous policies by ordering far more than they want to keep.

A common misconception among consumers is that returned clothing is inspected and then stored on heavy duty garment rails ready for reselling. However, the reality is that many returned items end up being discarded with some even ending up in landfills, although Amazon stated officially in 2022 that none of its returns go to landfills. Unfortunately, some returns may undergo “energy recovery,” a euphemistic term for burning them in a furnace.

To address this issue, there are companies that purchase bulk-returned goods and excessive inventories, employing teams that sort and inspect clothing before selling them at discounted prices.

Another related concern is how older garments are disposed of when no longer wanted or needed by consumers. One way to recycle used clothing is to give them to charity shops. In 2022, Joules fashion retailer partnered with Reskinned to accept used Joules clothing for resale or recycling the material if unsuitable for selling.

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