UK becoming a 'nation of returners', survey says

Two in five consumers (41%) buy multiple sizes of the same garment when shopping online, just to check the fit – and then send the 'wrong ones' back, according to a new survey from, the online virtual fitting room provider. Women (49%) are more likely than men (31%) to engage in the practice of ordering more sizes than they intend to keep.

The survey was commissioned to highlight the enormous costs to retailers of not providing customers – who are buying online rather than on the high street in ever-increasing numbers – with an online alternative to the ever-popular in-store fitting room.

According to's own data, the main reason for returning items bought online is that the size did not fit (43%), followed by the feel of the fabric (25%), and then the style of the garment (15%). According to the research, over one in ten (12%) of consumers report they 'never buy online because of sizing concerns' and a further 61 per cent said that they hesitate before making a purchase online due to sizing concerns.

Additional findings from the research include:

  • Over half of consumers (60%) won't consider making a purchase online unless returns were free
  • 12 per cent of those surveyed say they have ordered multiple sizes online in order to check the fit and then forgotten to return the items they didn't want
  • One in ten consumers (11%) report that they have even returned online purchases that they have worn

Heikki Haldre, founder and chief executive of, commented: "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. And there's no way they can physically try on the garment. They're learning that the 'free returns' offered by retailers works to their advantage; it means they can order multiple sizes but return the one or more that they don't want.

"However returns cost retailers enormous sums of money; not just the transportation of it, but the re-warehousing of the garment and, often, its subsequent discounting for resale. This is already a problem for retailers; as the proportion of people shopping online grows and more people twig to the fact that they can send back unwanted items with no penalty, it's going to get a lot worse – unless and until retailers deploy virtual fitting rooms," he said.

A recent study of conversions and returns at shirtmaker Hawes and Curtis showed that its virtual fitting room was responsible for an improvement in conversion rates of 57 per cent for first-time customers, and a 35 per cent fall in its overall garment return rates.

About the research surveyed 1,000 UK consumers on their shopping habits. The data was collected by Redshift Research.


Comments (1)

  1. nina sayers:
    Nov 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    guilty as charged! I have done this myself once. Found a gorgeous pair of shoes and ordered it but when it came it didn’t match the intended outfit! :( I think these online shopping websites should conduct surveys to find out exactly what the customer is looking for. online survey tools like or even provide cheap and effective means to conduct surveys.. online retailers should use them and reduce the returns!

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