There is a cost to returning your purchases online. A start-up hopes to solve it

Small business owner Miso Jung occupies a traditionally happy corner of the local fashion industry, providing contemporary clothing to pregnant women, but the dark side of Australian shopping habits has clouded his outlook. Keep pace with a 57% increase year over year in online sales, sped up by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Jung has witnessed a dramatic increase in his business’ returns.

“I’ve seen how things have changed over the past decade with online shopping behavior,” said Jung, who operates Soon Maternity in South Yarra, Melbourne. “Free online returns have triggered huge return rates. Customers say they want sustainable fashion, but quickly forget about it when it comes to returns. “

To combat the environmental impact of returns, small <a class=business owner Miso Jung has developed a loyalty program that rewards considered purchases.” data-src=”$zoom_0.252%2C$multiply_0.4431%2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/b6203c19b95f3f52a4e72744797aba9dd9afa38d” height=”224″ width=”335″ data-srcset=”$zoom_0.252%2C$multiply_0.4431%2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/b6203c19b95f3f52a4e72744797aba9dd9afa38d,$zoom_0.252%2C$multiply_0.8862%2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/b6203c19b95f3f52a4e72744797aba9dd9afa38d 2x”/>

To combat the environmental impact of returns, small business owner Miso Jung has developed a loyalty program that rewards considered purchases.Credit:Chris hopkins

This acquisitive amnesia created an estimated 30% return rate, according to the Australian Circular Fashion Association, with buyers purchasing multiple sizes or colors to try on at home. The rooms are the new locker rooms, and the cost is the increase in carbon emissions with transportation and returned items heading to the landfill.

“Returns are assumed to be repackaged and resold, but many brands still send returns to landfill,” said Timo Rissanen, associate professor of fashion and textiles at UTS. “Amazon was caught doing it and other labels.”

To tackle fashion waste, Jung created a loyalty program called On Fleek, reward buyers for not returning goods and educate them on the environmental cost of their actions. Launched three months ago, the program has already partnered with more than 50 brands and retailers, including Country Road, Aje, Zimmermann and Farfetch.

Every year, some 59,000 tonnes of used and unsold clothing from around the world are dumped in Chile.Credit:Getty

“Until now, the focus on sustainability has been on the brands themselves, but we want to focus on the customer,” Jung said. “It’s about educating and empowering individuals and getting them to think about the overall cost of their purchases. We all love to receive things in the mail, but this dopamine rush comes at a price. “

By consciously purchasing and not returning items, On Fleek users earn points, which can be redeemed for gift certificates or used to plant trees through the One Tree Planted charity. A virtual forest tracks buyers’ commitment to offset carbon emissions.

For companies like Country Road, the partnership is an effortless extension of their own green efforts.

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