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Wardrobing - what is this phenomenon and how to fight it?

by Ewa Pytkowska, Sales Director Poland, Checkpoint Systems Polska


Buy, try and return

A large number of clothing and footwear stores - both bricks and mortar and online - offer their customers the possibility of returning purchased goods. Thanks to this option, which is designed to increase customer satisfaction, the consumer can try on clothes at home and return them to the store, obtaining a full refund. Unfortunately, some shoppers use this policy to practice wardrobing. It consists of buying clothes, wearing them with labels intact and then returning them as unused goods to get a full refund. Whilst not strictly illegal as regulated by consumer law, the act of wardrobing equates to fraud and is on the rise. Why is wardrobing unfavourable to the retail sector? How are retailers suffering from the effects of wardrobing?

Risks resulting from wardrobing

Wardrobing is a practice which generates signifiant losses for retailers. Shops are often unable to resell returned, worn items, and there are occasions when consumers deliberately damage a product in order to be able to return it again. Due to wardrobing, shops lose sales opportunities because the availability of merchandise is decreasing - goods that will return to the shop after some time, cannot be purchased by other customers.

The rise of wardrobing

The phenomenon of wardrobing is becoming more commonplace. According to a recent survey carried out by the National Retail Federation, 31.8% of shops in the United States are affected. In the UK, further research found that 13% of consumers have purchased clothing with the intention of wearing it once and then returning it for a refund[i].

Elsewhere in Europe, wardrobing is also on the rise according to the latest study "Fashion market in Poland, 2018". The Polish clothing market is one of the largest and most attractive in Central and Eastern Europe. Its value is estimated at as much as PLN 29.1 billion (€6.81 billion). Along with increasing sales, the number of people who buy clothes, wear them and then return them increases proportionally. Shops of various sizes suffer from this - the problem also affects all kinds of online shops, where customers have the opportunity to try on the product only after its purchase. For this reason, sellers do not want, and cannot, give up the opportunity for customers to try the product, but are afraid that consumers will choose the competition, or wear their chosen items before fraudulantly returning them.

How to fight wardrobing?

For retailers, wardrobing needs a cost-effective solution that is simple to implement across stores. Checkpoint has been addressing the wardrobing issue for many years with various innovative solutions. It recently developed the R-Turn tag, a unique and effective solution that helps retailers tackle fraudulent returns and reduce out-of-stock scenarios.


The R-Turn Tag allows retailers to fight against wardrobing in a proven way and at the same time maintain an attractive return policy. It is an aestheticaly pleasing and small tag which retailers can customtise with their logo. It is attached to merchandise in a visible place and can only be removed by the customer at home by manually breaking off the locking mechanism. Due to the fact that it is in a clearly visible place, it is impossible to purchase the goods and wear them before returning them to the shop. And, by amending their returns policy to state that returns are only accepted with the R-Turn Tag fitted onto the garment with the instructional label attached, retailers are able to minimise fraudulent returns without impacting customer experience.


It is a reality that retailers need an effective deterrent for wardrobing to reduce the impact on returns and lost sales. This solution minimizes the losses associated with wardrobing, while not affecting the quality of customer service and the aesthetics of products displayed in store. The next step will see retailers consider how integrated security systems and RFID solutions can further improve their profitability.



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About Checkpoint Systems

Checkpoint Systems, a division of CCL Industries, addresses two critical issues for its customers: Improving Profitability and Improving Consumer experience. With consumer demands accelerating at an extraordinary rate driven by technology, Checkpoint recognizes the challenges faced by its customers in the rapidly evolving retail market. We deliver intelligent solutions – bringing clarity and efficiency into the retail environment anytime, anywhere. Through a unique offering of software, hardware, labels, tags and connected cloud based solutions, Checkpoint optimizes operational efficiencies through analysis of real time data captured throughout the Supply Chain and in store then translating this to clear concise actions and tasks.

We provide end-to-end solutions enabling retailers to achieve accurate real-time inventory, accelerate the replenishment cycle, prevent out-of-stocks and reduce theft, thus improving merchandise availability and the shopper’s experience. Checkpoint’s solutions are built upon 48 years of radio frequency technology expertise, innovative high-theft and loss-prevention solutions, market-leading RFID hardware, RFID software, and comprehensive labeling capabilities, to brand, secure and track merchandise from source to shelf. Checkpoint’s customers benefit from increased sales and profits by implementing merchandise availability solutions, to ensure the right merchandise is available at the right place and time when consumers are ready to buy. Checkpoint operates in every major geographic market and employs 4,500 people worldwide.

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