Returns policies

Jody writes:

Kathleen, I have searched your site and scoured through your book but haven’t found what I am looking for. Could you please tell me or post some guidelines for returns for a new DE with a new company? We launched at MAGIC a few weeks ago and received some orders. I am trying to finalize my return policy and want to make sure I don’t screw it up!!

Can any of you help out with this? Miracle will be out of the picture for awhile. The only point I can make (again), is not to accept returns at the end of the selling season because that amounts to consignment. If the buyer has just cause to return goods, it should be within the first week of receipt of the goods. [amended: see Selling clothes to stores.] Just cause of course, would amount to the goods failing to meet the standards represented by the selling samples.

What say you?

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  1. bethany says:

    Here is my policy as listed on my Georgie World website:

    Terms and Conditions

    All merchandise is cut to order
    All orders are final 7 days after order date
    All orders require payment in full, prior to, or on delivery. Payment options are Visa, MC, Discover or Business Check.
    Authorized returns only due to damages or shipping errors within 5 days of receipt of goods for replacement or credit to your Georgie World account

    With that said, I have had cancellations after I was ready to ship. My sales rep called me and told me one store wasn’t going to be carrying kids stuff anymore and the other store was over bought. Technically I could have said no, and made them pay, but I figured there was no reason to be nasty about it.

    I ALWAYS accept returns for damages, no questions asked. And yes, I have had entire orders cancelled because there were alleged ‘damages’. What can you do?

    I have yet to be asked for returns at end of season. Maybe it is because I am in children’s clothing and they can always box away garments and reshow them the following season. Or maybe it is because my clothing is so awesome there isn’t anything left at the end of the season :). If I was confronted with this, I would probably take the merchandise back for credit on the next shipment. I feel that would be a good compromise.
    However, I would only do it once for a store. If a store came to me season after season asking for returns, no way.

    The way I see it, any time a store and I speak it is one more chance for me to sell them on Georgie World, whether it is to show our amazing customer service, or to just solidify a relationship. Returns are just one aspect of my relationship with my vendors and I see them as more of a positive then a negative.

  2. Andrea says:

    When I worked at a high end boutique, I was responsible for re-orders, returns and bookkeeping. The most common theme that I saw was that after you recieve and inspect your inventory you have about a week to call for RA#s (return authorization #s). Most companies only accepted defective merch (which is my policy) but there are also fit issues and hidden defects in the construction that will warrant returns. We had a shipment of spaghetti strapped dresses where the strap snapped with every person who tried them on…we really didn’t get it until about 3 weeks after the shipment arrived. The error was clearly in the construction so we were able to return the shipment. Another policy I’ve seen is that you can exchange “bad buys” for alternate available styles/colors.

    It’s my opinion (as a designer) that returns need to happen in the first few weeks (so you can pawn them off to other retailers) and also returns always need to be accepted for bad construction. Some retailers won’t remember what they bought and try to return it because they can’t merchandise it with their other lines…too bad, Charlie. You shouldn’t have to eat it if someone can’t buy well for their store. Fit issues are also a biggy. If your line doesn’t fit anyone, you should take it back, but I know F-Iers won’t have that issue ;)

  3. J C Sprowls says:

    I was hanging back on this topic because I wanted to hear more from those who are producing. Though, I will interject an opinion about service and being easy to work with. If me or my company makes a mistake – and, I consider faulty workmanship my mistake – I feel it’s appropriate to provide return shipping and make the customer whole as quickly as possible.

    My current plan provides return shipping anytime I need to inspect goods. I do not, however, plan to refund a customer without having inspected – just like FedEX, UPS, the Postal Service, etc. If a refund is warranted, it will be processed as quickly as possible.

    Andrea mentions that the retailer she worked for permitted exchange of “bad buys” for alternate merchandise. The one retailer I worked for did not permit this – we simply accelerated the markdown process.

    That said, I plan to use “sell thru guarantees” (e.g. 50% credit toward alternate mdse) for several purposes: 1) keeping my product off the off-price market, 2) encouraging Retailers to manage buying more effectively, and 3) providing a mechanism to refresh the footprint in their stores.

    I realize this requires managing relationships carefully and remaining in frequent contact. But, it also encourages frequent reorders (e.g. monthly or semi-quarterly), a smaller footprint, fresh displays and consistent production levels. In my mind, this structure lends itself to being serviceable and easy-to-work-with.

  4. bethany says:

    JC I think your plan is a solid one and one I may use once I know how my clothing sells. If I know my clothing sells relatively quick, I would love to establish a sell through guarantee, but if I find GW takes time to catch on, what with the children’s clothing sell time so looooooooong, then I may reassess the plan.

  5. MJ says:

    In most companies I’ve encountered and worked for, they allow 7 days for customers to report for problems and claim exchange. Usually it’s to exchange with the same style, size and colour but if it’s a present, it could be different size or colour. If the product itself is faulty (dirty, wash then the seams burst), the quality control people would check how the problem appear.

    In 1 of my previous companies, even though we know some customers insist on using washing machine to wash blazer suits and then complain they shrink or lose shape, the customer service department still allow exchange and refund. Possibly because the company cares more about getting customers’ approval than maintaining a strict standard for post-sales service.

    For shipment, if it’s the product’s fault, then the company should pay for the shipping (from customers and back to customers). It’s only fair because the company did not manufacture the product properly and cause inconvenience to the customers.

  6. Diane says:

    For defective merchandise, we always accept (and pay for) returns with no limitations.

    If a product isn’t moving, we will usually allow exchanges for alternate products if available, or a credit towards the following season. Usually we try to work with the store to figure out which products might do better or if there’s a more effective way it can be merchandised. Our theory being if we are willing to work with the

    Of course, this policy works for us because we also sell direct through a website & catalog so we stock more inventory and have a way to unload excess at minimal cost.

  7. “That said, I plan to use “sell thru guarantees” (e.g. 50% credit toward alternate mdse) for several purposes: 1) keeping my product off the off-price market, 2) encouraging Retailers to manage buying more effectively, and 3) providing a mechanism to refresh the footprint in their stores.”

    JC, can you expand on this a little for me? It’s not entirely clear to me what you mean but oh I sure would like to know!

  8. J C Sprowls says:


    It sounds as if your company sells direct to the end consumer. If that is the case, your return policy is generous. However, I would expect a Manufacturer to maintain a different return policy for Retailers.


    Check out this article and also search the blog for other discussions.

    We also have several discussions on the subject in the forum.

    What I’m saying is that sell-through guarantees can be used effectively if you have the infrastructure and risk pool to support them.

  9. Dena Tayler says:

    HELP! Do you have any advice? Since buying my Spring/Summer product almost a year ago, the business (ladies fashion retail) has been very slow (for no apparant reason and ALL businesses of ALL types have expressed this in the area I live/have my business). I’ve been monitoring the situation but of course have been “hopeful” things would “turn around” however now, here we are in-season and the situation has not changed. We’re still DOWN almost by 1/2 of what we were doing last year. So, in going forward, I’m feeling very concerned. I’ve already received quite a bit of my spring/summer orders but I feel I should CANCEL the rest. What are your thoughts/knowledge on doing this. I know its not going to score me any points and I may not even be able to buy from that vendor again and I’m willing to take that chance….but what is the protocol/manner? Any thought on this subject would be helpful. Thanks. My store is in Canada….

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