October 26, 2012, 3:53 PM

Many web shoppers solve the try-it-on problem by ordering multiple sizes

41% buy clothing in multiple sizes and return those that don’t fit, U.K. study says.

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Without access to a store’s fitting room, many online shoppers in the U.K. order items in two or more sizes, try them on at home and send back the ones that don’t fit, a survey says.

41% of the U.K. consumers surveyed say they buy clothing items in multiple sizes online, then return the ones that don’t fit—and 11% report returning items they’ve worn, according to Fits.me, a virtual fitting room technology provider that commissioned the survey of 1,000 U.K. consumers conducted by market research firm Redshift Research. 

Those consumers are taking advantage of e-retailers’ shipping promotions, too. More than half—60%—of respondents say they won’t consider making an online purchase unless returns are free, the survey says. Almost the same amount, 61%, say they hesitate when buying clothing online because they’re concerned about sizing.

U.K. women are more likely than men to order more sizes online than they intend to keep—49% of women surveyed report doing so versus 31% of men.

“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 Fits.me. “They’re learning that the ‘free returns’ offered by retailers work to their advantage; it means they can order multiple sizes but return the one or more that they don’t want.”

Although Haldre adds that the costs from transportation, re-warehousing and possibly discounting returned items can be high for retailers, they don’t always lose out when consumers decide to use their homes as fitting rooms. Despite the convenience many e-retailers offer for returning items, 12% of the survey respondents say they’ve ordered multiple sizes of items to try on at home but then forgotten to return the ones they didn’t want.

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