Zalando cuts back on free shipping policy

Dozen pakketjes Zalando worden niet overal meer gratis verzonden.
Foto: LMWH /

Zalando is introducing shipping costs in Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom, following an earlier test in Italy. This seems to mark the end of the free era, even though the German company says there are no plans to further expand the measure.


3.5 euro in shipping costs

After an initial experiment in Italy, Zalando is introducing shipping costs for 'small' orders in Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom - without real prior notification, according to Belgian newspaper De Tijd. Irish and Spanish customers placing an order under 25 euros will be charged between 2.90 and 3.50 euros for home delivery, while British customers will have to pay 3 pounds for orders with a value below 20 pounds.


This is a radical change for Zalando, as the online shoe retailer was one of the first companies who tried to lure consumers into e-commerce by offering free shipping and returns. The German fashion retailer is now increasingly reversing this policy, perhaps because the losses are mounting up. In the past quarter, after the introduction of a stricter return policy and shipping costs in Italy, Zalando has already made a profit. As yet there are no plans to introduce shipping costs for small packages in other countries, a spokesperson said... however De Tijd pointed out that this was also the case after the first experiment in Italy.


The end of the free era?

Retail experts have long insisted that free shipping is not sustainable and that no such thing really exists - free is always at the expense of something else. An increasing number of retailers are becoming stricter or are completely stopping free shipment for low-price orders: British webshop Asos recently announced that it would be stricter when accepting returns and last week, H&M imposed a minimum of 25 euros for free shipping. Only Huub Vermeulen, CEO of, believes “free shipping will not end that quickly”.


For many competing retailers, the damage has already been done: thanks to the substantial investments in free home delivery and returns, webshops such as Zalando, and Amazon have given consumers confidence in e-commerce and they have been able to expand their market share. Consequently, heavy additional competition for physical players has arisen, with quite a few bankruptcies as a result.