Retail returns fraud rampant among UK fashion shoppers, reveals poll

New research has revealed that retail returns fraud is intensifying in the UK, with 48 per cent of consumers admitting to having bought, used and then returned a product in the last six months.

In the survey of 2,000 shoppers commissioned by returns specialist ReBound, a third admit to deliberately returning an item against a retailer’s returns policy. Clothing and footwear tops the list of fraudulently returned items along with handheld tech and gaming goods.

Despite the high number of offenders, many shoppers aren’t aware that their actions are fraudulent. The majority polled (84 per cent) said they “have not and would not ever” commit fraud. Nearly a third of those polled (31 per cent) said using an item then returning it as unused does not count as fraud, although 57 per cent believe doing so is unethical.

This level of returns fraud puts a huge strain on the retail sector, with the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimating that 10 per cent of the value of returned merchandise is lost to fraud, at a time when retailers are under extreme pressure.

Laura Garrett, returns expert at ReBound, comments: Retail margins are tighter than ever as inflation continues to push up costs and the cost of living crisis squeezes consumer spending. Retailers and brands are reacting, with some making the decision to charge for returns. 

“Consumers fraudulently returning items is placing an additional burden on the bottom line at a crucial time of year for retailers and brands and may push more brands to charge for returns. The festive period also creates a spike in these fraudulent returns, with clothing worn to Christmas parties a particular problem.

“As retailers look for solutions, an increasing number have started to consider banning serial returners. The challenge is that this cohort includes both their most loyal customers as well as the fraudsters. Only comprehensive end-to-end returns management can provide the data and insights needed to tell the difference. A returns management system can also help retailers with local item verification, tackling the problem of wrong item returns, while streamlining the processing of genuine returns and refunds.”