Returning fashion items has never been easier : A qualitative multiple case study regarding the challenge of designing a return policy that benefits the consumer, the corporation and the environment

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för management (MAN)

Abstract: An escalating concern about the environment amongst the general population, businesses trying to make their way forward on the hunt for market shares and profitability, and customers that nowadays are used to extreme flexibility in their purchase and return process due to the immense growth of e-commerce. These observations can all be considered facts, but do they correlate with each other when a customer tries on a pair of pants and decides to return them to the retailer? The purpose and reason for why this thesis was conducted was to gain an understanding of how fashion e-tailers in Sweden balance the needs of consumers, company finances and environmental concerns when designing their return policy. The thesis was conducted as a multiple case study, using a qualitative research method where the primary data was collected from six in-depth semi-structured interviews with practitioners within the field, representing e-tailers in the fashion industry. The findings obtained from the interviews were put in context, analysed, discussed and compared with literature from previous research using a thematic analysis approach. The authors can conclude that balance in the return policy is difficult to achieve. Various avoidance techniques are being used in order to maintain balance, and customer satisfaction is seen as a vital part of the return process. Sustainability is difficult to define and the participants interpreted the phrase in various ways. It was therefore complicated to analyse the environmental impact from product returns. Basically, it is difficult to know what the most sustainable initiatives are, and even though our participants take some environmental initiatives, there is room for improvement. The research provides valuable managerial implications from a new perspective that the researchers believe is more comprehensive, and gives suggestions for future research within the field of study. 

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