Add to basket, wait a few days, grab package left behind wheelie bin, try much-sought-after clothing item on (obviously not behind the wheelie bin) and…oh, wrong size…back in the package, affix the returns label and send it back to the warehouse. Easy come, easy go. It would seem so, but in actual fact, the way we’ve become accustomed to shopping these days is proving detrimental – it’s costly to our economy and the environment.
But one fashion student aims to change this. Joshua Marriott, who is completing his MA in Fashion Innovation and Realisation at LJMU, has come up with a new concept to ease the burden of returns for both the retailer and consumer. Having worked in the fashion industry for several years, Josh quickly became aware of the problem that returns presented to retailers. In order to remain competitive, clothing retailers are expected to offer convenient return policies. But because of this, the industry is seeing an average of 50-60% of purchases returned causing both logistical strain and contributing to a heavy CO2 footprint. Josh explains:
“According to The Financial Times, customer returns cost the UK £60 billion on average each year with clothing and footwear responsible for 12% of that figure. I wanted to create a solution for this and decided to develop an idea that could help aid the British high street, sustain returns and also create relief on the environmental impact that returns hold on our carbon footprint. The Wardrobe Locker is an evolution of the self-service technology that we see today. Consumers opt to have their online purchase delivered to a locker, that’s local or convenient to them. The locker is equipped with a changing facility so the consumer can try on their online purchase there and then, with the option of instant return if their purchase was deemed unfit.”
The British high street is enduring one of its most challenging times which is further compounded by the impact of COVID-19. We asked Josh to explain how his concept would help alleviate some of the pressures on the sector.
“This idea has been developed during a time when it is needed most with COVID-19. An anti-microbe additive agent can be used in the paintwork of surfaces in order to create an inhabitable space for bacteria and germs. This could be the answer to what many retailers are now questioning in regard to protecting the public and the safety of their staff.
“The Wardrobe Locker could be the forefront of retail technology and bridge the gap between ecommerce and in-store. With stores closing at an increasing rate this could create an opportunity for retailers to continue to offer a contact point where consumers can still try on a product in a safe, controlled environment.”
Have there been any interested parties?
“I am currently in talks with numerous potential investors/affiliates about this concept and hope to make some progression in the near future. Very interesting points have been made and constructive feedback has been welcomed. So far the industry experts that I have spoken to have all been very supportive and have actually been blown away by the concept and level of work.”
Josh recounts the support he received from LJMU in establishing his concept and the business skills he acquired.
“The tutors were my go-to with any initial ideas. They have their ear to the ground, with experience and knowledge on all subject areas brought to the table. Anything that could be really useful, they fully encourage you to pursue, which often results in a positive outcome. Also, the technical staff are the reason why/how I managed to achieve the level of work I delivered on my MA.
“What was also great about LJMU is the support from the Centre for Entrepreneurship. During lockdown, I reached out to the team with my MA concept and they were very keen to help equip me with business fundamentals such as intellectual property, pitching skills, branding and identity and, of course, networking. I was fortunate enough to win a funding grant at the end of a four-day course which has massively helped towards my entrepreneurial adventure.”
Check out the Postgraduate Art and Design Show 2020 for work produced by Josh and fellow students.