How online players are dealing with returned apparel during Covid-19

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on June 26, 2020

E-commerce players and offline retailers have beefed up their safety and sanitisation protocols   -  THE HINDU

E-commerce players including Myntra, Amazon, Ajio and Flipkart have increased their investments into beefing up safety and sanitisation protocols for products that are returned to them.

These include 48-hour quarantining of products in designated rooms, hot steam ironing, sanitising and multiple quality checks, among other measures.

Depending on specific product categories in fashion, around 25-35 per cent is the return rate on an average for the year. This number could go as high as 40 per cent during sales or events, according to Satish Meena, Research Analyst, Forrester Research.

“We have three different storage rooms; returns on a particular day are stored in, say, room 1 for 48 hours; no product is touched there. The second day, the returns for that day are stored in room 2, and the routine follows. Post the 48 hours, the products are sanitised and then taken back into inventory,” said a spokesperson for Big Bazaar, which sells apparel under its home label, FBB.

In Covid-19 times, players like Bestseller India, which is the master franchisee in India of brands like Vero Moda, Only and Jack & Jones, have made significant investments for more steamers. Myntra too has doubled investments for the product sanitisation process.

At their warehouses, and stores, companies including Bestseller India, Big Bazaar and Shoppers Stop have put in place strict protocols for their employees. Each of them has to wear a PPE kit and mask and use sanitisers at regular intervals. Ajio, Bestseller India and Big Bazaar have also designated refinishing units, where products are put into quarantine.

Industry sources claim that it is a very common practice for customers to order multiple styles and sizes at one go to avoid the hassle of reordering. So the customer chooses the best fit and style, and with a click of the button, the remaining are picked up from the doorstep. Globally, too, e-commerce players are pushing customers to try on clothes and return the rest.

Sources at Ajio said some of the products are never delivered to the customers as they refuse to accept the delivery. However, it still goes through multiple hands, and touchpoints; hence, when a product reaches the warehouse, it goes through a 48-hour quarantining. Post that, it goes through a quality check process, followed by a six-stage refinishing process to make sure that the product is delivered to the customer, new.

The good thing is that despite the concerns around spreading the virus, online players continue to accept returns during these times.

Uma Talreja, Customer Care Associate, Chief of Marketing and Customer Officer, Shoppers Stop, said, “We are accepting returns as usual and want our customers to have the promise of trust and convenience.”

Published on June 26, 2020

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