Friday, October 25, 2013

Ward Off Wardrobing

A current MainStreet.com posting describes the problem of people buying an item, using it once, and then returning it. A comment on the MainStreet.com posting tells of a woman who buys tableware and decorations for a party and then returns them all to the store.
     When the items are clothing, a common name for the practice is “wardrobing,” although due to the effect on the retailer, I’m thinking “wardrobbing” might be a more fitting name.
     Another name for the practice is “serial returning.” Consumer behavior researchers at Northern Illinois University, University of Tampa, and University of Texas-Tyler call it URD for “unethical retail disposition.”
     The researchers were struck by the large number of excuses people give themselves to justify the practice and by the fragility of the reasons people give themselves for restraining from serial returning. A significant percentage of shoppers can be easily convinced to do it and experience little, if any, guilt.
     Those and other research findings lead to suggestions for you to reduce the extent of URD:
  • Let shoppers know you are aware of the practice and that it is often illegal. Bloomindale’s is now attaching to more expensive dresses highly visible tags which, if removed from an item, preclude an exchange or refund. Sales staff explain the tags’ rationale. This is one way to discuss wardrobing without directly offending a shopper. 
  • Help shoppers to avoid URD. Offer rentals and group purchases, where people will share an item. This addresses one of the causes of wardrobing—a desire among those with limited budgets not to seen in the same outfit repeatedly when attending special events. 
  • Be a part of the community in which you do business. This is more challenging for solely ecommerce retailers and large retail chains than for the locally-based store. But it can be done by all retailers, and it’s important. URD is more common when shoppers consider the retailer to be an outsider. 
  • Explain your pricing and merchandising decisions to customers. The Illinois/Tampa/Texas researchers believe that at the base of URD is mistrust of the retailer’s intentions in pricing and merchandising. Offering items at a range of price points can be helpful. 
     Liberal return policies are important. Customers become more willing to buy when they know they can receive a refund or exchange if things don’t work out. But the shopper who intends to return purchased merchandise is committing fraud on you.

Click below for more: 
Run a Store, Not a Public Library 
Add Rentals as a Profit Center 
Collaborative Consumption is Coming 
Simplify Item Returns for Customers

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