Return Authorizations for the Clothing Industry

Fashion Industry Terms   Store Returns

What is a return authorization and why does it matter to clothing companies?

First of all, what is a return?  A return takes place when a company purchases product and then for some reason returns the merchandise to the company that sold them the merchandise. 

For example, a clothing boutique called Mike’s Clothing Store purchases jeans from the wholesaler John’s Wholesale Jeans Co.  After the purchase arrived Mike conducted an inspection (possibly an AQL inspection).  After conducting the inspection Mike’s Clothing Store realized that a large portion of the shipment was in a very poor quality.  The owner decided that the shipment was unacceptable and they did not want to keep the merchandise.  It was decided that a full return was necessary.

Because Mike’s Clothing Store already paid for the shipment, it was important that they discussed the issue with John’s Wholesale Jeans Company so that they could mutually agree that a return would be made.  It was important for the jeans company to confirm that they have given authorization for the return and that they would refund the money.

Prior to returning merchandise, it is important to receive a return authorization so that you are certain that your account will also be credited accordingly.  You do not want to return merchandise to someone and later learn that they have no intention of giving you back the money you originally paid for the merchandise.

A return can transpire for numerous reasons.  Poor quality is only one of the many reasons.  Some companies will ship merchandise with a pre-discussed agreement that unsold units will be returned at the end of the selling season.

When dealing with large clothing retailers the buyer a return authorization is typically assigned to product being returned.  The return authorization number allows both companies to better track the return transaction.

The company that receives the returned clothing must decide what to do with the product.  Depending on the quality, they have a few options.  The product can be refurbished and sold again to a new client if the merchandise is of good quality.  Damages can be donated or destroyed depending on the condition.

If you work for a fashion company that has many return in your warehouse, you may want to consult with a clothing closeout company or a jobber to help you sell off the excess merchandise.

By the way, if product is returned for poor quality, late delivery, or another supplier error sort of reason, it may be accompanied by a chargeback from the buyer.


A return merchandise authorization (RMA), return authorization (RA) or return goods authorization (RGA) is a part of the process of returning clothing, footwear, or fashion accessories in order to receive a refund, replacement, or repair.  The purchaser of the product must contact the supplier (manufacturer, distributor, or retailer) to obtain authorization to return the product.