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BizReport : : October 31, 2012

6 in 10 UK shoppers won't buy clothing online unless returns are free

An important part of shopping for clothing is trying on items to make sure they fit. UK online shoppers believe this should also be an option when purchasing items via the Internet.

by Helen Leggatt

_MG_9628_0.JPGResearch from a UK virtual fitting room company,, involving 1,000 UK consumers, found that 60% won't purchase clothing online if a retailer does not offer free returns.

"Consumers don't trust the sizing information they see online, and with good reason: there are no universal sizing standards, and sizing may vary considerably even within a single retailer," says Heikki Haldre, founder and chief executive of

Of those returning unwanted items the main reasons cited were ill-fitting garments (43%), feel of the fabric (25%) and style of the garment (15%).

To get around the problem, many online shoppers (41%) are ordering multiple sizes for one item and returning those that don't fit. This costs retailers offering free returns a lot of money, not only in postage but in re-warehousing and, possibly, discounting for resale.

The answer could lie in virtual fitting rooms. A recent study of conversions and returns at shirt-maker Hawes and Curtis, who use's technology, showed that its virtual fitting room was responsible for an improvement in conversion rates of 57% for first-time customers, and a 35% fall in its overall garment return rates.

Earlier this year, revealed the findings of a survey that found trying on clothes in store fitting rooms was becoming less attractive. Consumers cited tiny fitting rooms, queues and embarrassment as the main reasons they'd prefer to try on clothing at home.

"It's certainly true that more and more people are shopping online, where it's impossible for shoppers physically to try on clothes for fit," said Haldre. "This is forcing retailers to look at new solutions in which the fitting room has been re-imagined for the online world: these include virtual reality, personal style assistants, augmented reality, avatars and's own robotic mannequins that take on the exact shape and size of the shopper."

Tags: fashion retail, fitting room, online shopping, retail, return policy, UK

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