The False Economy Of The Online Shop

As if it wasn’t bad enough that consumers want to buy cheap in bricks and mortar shops, now they want the same online. But that is causing problems for online retailers as customers can’t shop the way they want to from the back of a screen.

In a shop you can pick up an armful of garments in various colours, perhaps more than one size of the same item because let’s face it nothing is ever quite as it appears on the label, and you try everything on in your own time in a private changing room.

For me, nothing ever looks as good on as it did on the hanger or in the image. I would never buy online because nothing ever fits in the same way, or has the quality of the image. Very rarely do I buy something when I took it into the changing room so I’m unlikely to take that risk online. I am not a standard size.

But many people are happy to take the online risk. That’s because we have photoshop, models who don’t look like the average high street shopper and a sizing system in this country that makes no sense at all. All these factors lure us in with the promise that everything will be just fine. And if it isn’t, you won’t have lost out.

Just the other day I was looking through Twitter and there was a photo of a girl with three dresses purchased online because she couldn’t decide which if any she wanted. The others, or perhaps all of them, would be sent back for full refunds.


So, your package arrives conveniently in the post two days after you ordered it. But there will be a whole host of other problems:

The fabrics are never as nice as they appeared in the photo
The garment never fits the same way as it seemed to on the model
You just don’t like it anymore
The colours aren’t the same

As well as the initial dislike of the product, online retailers record numerous examples of garments being returned which had clearly been worn for one night out – garments that customers realised they were unlikely to wear again or wore once and realised the impracticalities of their purchase. Many of these garments end up being binned. This means that not only has the retailer not sold the product, they have paid for its transit and had to throw it away at the end. If anything this is a reminder that dress hire should be a real thing of the future.

The problems with online retail is something Radio 4 have recently been looking at on their programme You and Yours. A lack of respect for purchases in shops caused by cheap products is doubled when it’s online because there is a zero risk factor for the customer. You didn’t even need to make the effort to go to a shop. It appeared in a bag and the likelihood is that it will go back in the bag too. And the cost of delivery and return? All picked up by the outlet. And therein lies a massive problem for businesses struggling to survive.

Retailers say that free online delivery and returns is an important part of their service. But with the rate of returns so high, many have to pass on the cost directly back to the customer anyway in the form of higher priced products.

Customers are willing to take the return risk at retailer expense. But it is clearly fast becoming a false economy as brands become crippled by these additional costs. A £6 garment delivered and returned may mean zero money back in the pocket of the retailer after it’s also been processed by the company employed to deal with the shipment of purchases.

Computer Keyboard with symbolic shopping cart key


That being said, online is still vastly cheaper than a bricks and mortar shop as far as the retailer is concerned. For me, it’s the only outlet I have. However, I don’t sell at cheap prices and I do not pick up the tab for delivery and returns. That’s because I want to attract a different kind of shopper. Every garment I have ever sold has been kept by my customers. And the reason is that I don’t try to deceive about fabric quality or fit.

Whilst I do sell directly via my website, customers are clearly keener to shop through a platform like Etsy where I list a selection of garments. Customers are clearly concerned for their statutory rights. But as far as online costs are concerned, they are still responsible for postage costs unless there is a fault with the garment.

For many small businesses, online is the only way to trend. But the way larger brands have set up their online sales process causes endless problems for smaller companies that cannot absorb the huge financial hit that bigger retailers do.

For all things Falcieri Designs check out my website at


One response to “The False Economy Of The Online Shop

  1. Pingback: Free Returns Are Killing Everything – Here’s Why | Creative Process·

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