Brits buy clothes ‘for the hashtag moment’ and then return them for a refund, finds Barclaycard


New research from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, shows that ‘outfit of the day’ posts have literally become just that. Almost one in 10 Brits reveal that they have bought clothes online (nine per cent) to wear once with the aim of posting a photo to social media and subsequently returning their purchases. This rises to almost one in five among 35-44 year olds (17%), the biggest percentage of any age group.

Surprisingly, it is men who are more ‘socially self-conscious’ than women – with 12% posting a clothing item on social media and then returning it to an online retailer compared to only seven per cent of women. It’s not just virtual vanity, one in ten men also say they would feel embarrassed for a friend to see them in the same outfit twice compared to seven per cent of women. More men (15%) also admit to wearing clothes with the tags on in case they want to return them, compared to 11% of women.

Additional Barclaycard research has also revealed that men are bigger spenders on fashion than women. Despite common assumptions, men’s spending on clothes and shoes totals £114 per person each month, equating to over £300 more per person than women a year.

The rise of the ‘try before you buy’ policy, which allows shoppers to order clothes online and only buy them if they decide to keep them, may well be contributing to the ‘snap and send back’ trend. More than three in ten Brits (31%) say they are more likely to return items they purchase online using ‘try before you buy’ because they don’t have to pay for the item beforehand.                                                                                                                

George Allardice, head of strategy, Barclaycard Payment Solutions, said: “It’s interesting to see the social media trend further fuelling the returns culture. We know from our research that returns are having a big impact on retailers, with a huge figure of seven billion pounds a year in sales that they potentially can’t recognise.

“Retailers are adopting new processes to make returns easier as they know how important this is to customers. But to ensure shoppers are getting more wear out of their clothes – for posting on social media or for those real-life moments – retailers could think about introducing more varied photography and video content to their websites. By showing how to style items for different looks and how they will appear when worn, they could reduce the number of shoppers ‘snapping and sending back’.”

Celebrity stylist Alex Longmore provides her top tips to get more ‘tags’ out of your clothes:

  1. When it comes to shopping for your latest ‘look of the day’ outfit, be savvy and save money by purchasing a series of interchangeable pieces to create different styles. As a guide, having versatile pieces in your wardrobe with a handful of accessories, means that your outfits can really stand out on Instagram and may help reduce the number of returns you make.
  2. If you’re looking to buy new outfits in-store, try them on before you purchase and you can take some practice shots for social media so that you have an idea on how the clothes will look in photos.
  3. When purchasing new outfits online check if there is an option to see how they will appear in real-life. Many retailers offer ‘online catwalk’ videos or even better, ‘virtual fitting rooms’ to see how clothes will fit your size and shape. This way, you will avoid disappointment and start to understand the styles which will suit you best.
  4. Be creative with your photography and use different camera angles to shoot your look from full length to three-quarter length shots. By doing this, you will achieve a lower cost per wear, and can feature the same outfit on ‘the gram’ guilt-free!
  5. When it comes to choosing outfits, take your time. If you have recently purchased new items, assess your current wardrobe and how these new additions will work together. Ask yourself if they give you the opportunity to wear them with other items you already have – such as a pair of good fitting jeans teamed with a sloganed t-shirt.
  6. If you want your Instagram channel to look more like the ones you see from fashion brands and influencers, think about the look and feel, and set a theme for it. This can be anything from posting content that showcases similar colours to using the same filter on every post.
  7. For those who hate ironing and want quick and easy crease-free clothes, purchasing a steamer can be a worthwhile investment – with the added bonus of helping your garments look their best in any light.
  8. My two tips for making trainers look as good as they do in the store for social media is to tape the soles with masking tape and invest in a spray which will keep stains at bay. Do this and help keep your trainers looking ‘shop-bought new’ for as long as possible!