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IRX 2014 INTERVIEW Shop Direct’s Chris Haighton talks returns

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Chris Haighton, head of retail logistics at Shop Direct , is speaking at Internet Retailing Expo 2014 (IRX 2014). We caught up with him ahead of his presentation.

With a heritage of catalogue retail, Shop Direct has a background in dealing with returns. It’s the understanding, says Chris Haighton, that “customers see their front room or bedroom as their changing room” that sets it apart from those retailers with their roots in the store, where customers try clothes before they buy. “People translate it into the online world and assume they’ll get the 0.5% returns they get in their store. But in fashion, particularly, you could be looking at 30-40% returns. That’s the level not so much of returns after the till but of what customers are trying on and putting back on the shelves.” It’s important, says Haighton, to get the item back on the shelf as quickly as possible so it can be resold “while it’s still relevant.”

Some retailers make it difficult or expensive to send purchases back, says Haighton, but that puts many shoppers off buying in the first place. At Shop Direct, he says, returns are a selling point. “There’s a whole host of ways customers can return items and for free,” he says. “Free is part of our USP, about encouraging customers to shop with confidence.”

It’s important, says Haighton, to recognise the opportunity in returns. The feedback and other information that comes with returned items is helpful in identifying issues with products. Meanwhile, 60% of returned items are back on the shelf and sold again within 24 hours, thanks to staff and resources that restore items to their original condition.

Find out more about Shop Direct’s returns strategy, including the calculations taken on how to deal with returned items, at IRX 2014.

Chris Haighton will be speaking at IRX 2014 alongside James Harper, head of returns at Shop Direct in the Operations and Logistics conference. Their case study presentation, Building an efficient online returns strategy, is scheduled for 11.35am on March 27. Find out more about the Operations and Logistics conference here, and find out more about IRX 2014, and register for a free place, at

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