Product Returns for Slow Fashion Brands

By Laura Garrett

Ecommerce continues to boom with no end in sight. The past year has seen online sales increase by almost 50%, largely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has introduced new audiences and created new dependencies on ecommerce. Fashion retailers have witnessed this digital transformation first-hand.

It is widely acknowledged that the consumption of fashion products has a negative impact on the environment. Largely through the manufacturing process, where vast amounts of materials and resources are used for production, and the carbon-emissions associated with the transportation of these products for both order deliveries and returns.

Yet many fashion retailers are now taking action to reduce their carbon footprint in a joint global effort to stamp down this impact. This includes a rising wave of brands who are focused on promoting the sale of used or recycled garments, alongside slow-fashion brands who are producing new products responsibly, engaging also with opportunities for circularity.

Slow-fashion brands encourage life-long purchases through timeless design, good quality products made of durable materials, and sale-free seasonless collections. Supported by greener delivery and return options, these brands offer consumers a more environmentally conscious way of shopping new.

Supporting a Circular Commerce Model

One way that slow and sustainable fashion brands can reduce their environmental footprint further is through embracing circular opportunities. Taking product returns as an example, this could mean making sure that each returned item is assigned a new purpose – not letting anything become waste produce or sent to landfill.

At ReBound, we support retailers by helping them engage with the circular economy by facilitating a returns flow that includes activities such as product reconditioning, re-routing and recycling. All of which assign a new purpose to each return and keep these products operating within a circular life cycle. Through resale or repurposing, items are not wasted. Within our global network we also offer these services locally, to avoid unnecessary long-haul transportation.

These circular business models, alongside the use of responsible materials, have been highlighted by the likes of McKinsey & Company as a way that brands can decrease their environmental impact.

Meeting Consumer Demands

The sustainability and over-consumption aspect of fashion commerce is growing in the minds of consumers, as well as retailers. More customers than ever before seem to have an appetite for transparency when it comes to sustainability. Clarity over the production of products, but also around how it arrives at their doorstep. Studies have shown that this is especially true for younger generations, with over 60% of Generation Z shoppers opting for sustainable brands, despite their higher price point.

The rising popularity of slow fashion brands is raising the bar when it comes to sustainability and consumer demands. Leading the way in transforming the entire fashion purchasing process, from using more eco-friendly resources in manufacturing, increasing product quality, eliminating ‘trends’ in design and securing greener options through smart partnerships for delivery and returns. All in all, encouraging their consumer base to be more considerate about what they buy, while making sure that when they do spend, it’s on products that have been carefully crafted with the environmental impact in mind at each stage.

Investments for Both Retailers and Consumers

Fashion brands turning their attention to sustainability realize that investments need to be made in order to reduce the industry’s negative social and environmental impact. Although it may cost more for retailers to use higher grade materials, alternative manufacturing methods and smart technology, these more often than not pay off in the end. Whether this be through long-term cost-savings, customer experience improvement, or brand image.

Slow fashion brands must also encourage consumers to opt for the greener options when it comes to fashion consumption. For example, although an item of clothing may be marked at a higher price point, the lifespan of this item will likely mean that in terms of cost per wear, the item becomes cheaper in the end than a fast-fashion item.

For this reason, it’s also essential for sustainable fashion brands to make sure that there is a green option available for logistics, and especially aftersales. A consumer purchasing from a slow fashion brand expects this product to serve them for a long time. That’s why it’s important, that if this item does not meet expectations, for one reason or another, a sustainable way of returning is established too.

Green Logistics Powered by Smart Technology

To return a product sustainably there’s a lot of elements that must work together seamlessly. This requires a large network of partners comprised of postal carriers, transport providers, warehouse facilities, technology and software, to name but a few.

Automating this process wherever possible not only quickens the return lead-time, but it also captures data which can be used to ensure that consumer returns are being handled responsibly and in the most sustainable manner available.

At ReBound, for example, we use data capturing during the returns process to smartly route items to an end destination that recaptures its value and keeps the item within the product lifecycle. Whether this is re-routing products back to store or outlets for resale, or to a local recycling location. Smart-routing, in short, combines the best of IT and logistics power to optimize the returns flow.

ASKET: Slow Fashion and Returns Handling with ReBound 

“We cannot shop our way to sustainability, only by reducing product output and decreasing consumption habits, can we turn around issues surrounding the fashion industry.”– ASKET

Leading the pack in terms of slow fashion is ASKET, whose timeless clothing pieces encourage consumers to shop consciously and responsibly with durable products, seasonless design and sustainable packaging. They’re also transparent with their customers about the eco footprint of their purchases through the innovative impact receipt , which is designed to discourage over consumption.

With returns, ASKET takes steps towards reducing their overall return rate by offering tools during pre-sales such as the size finder which is not only used by customers to ensure they’re getting the right size the first time, but it also reduces the likelihood that the item will be returned because of incorrect sizing.

As Brexit approached in late 2020, ASKET, a ReBound customer, integrated quickly with our return solution to also offer their customers in the UK with local returns handling. Ensuring that they could continue to meet customers’ expectation in terms of free and fast refunds and exchanges. With ReBound’s support, returned items are consolidated in the UK before being sent back in bulk to Europe; a greener transport option which avoids multiple, or unnecessary, shipments.    

ReBound  X ASKET 

  • Local returns handling
  • Consolidated shipments
  • A global and easily scalable returns solution
  • A joint commitment to optimize returns flows


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