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Security labels - Manufacture of functional labels in the product return business of online-traded textiles

The increasing volume of online-traded products results in a higher number of product returns. The return rates are variable, depending on the type of products ordered, and are particularly high in “fashion and accessories”. 53.6 of the customers do not plan for returns when ordering, 27.6% order several articles in different sizes and colours for comparison to make a final decision.

The share of customers ordering an article with the intention to return it is 18.8%. A typical example in Germany is the ordering of traditional Bavarian leather trousers and dirndl dresses for the Oktoberfest beer festival and their planned return after the festival. This meets the definition of unreasonable and excessive wearing of online-ordered textile articles. This abusive use of partly free returns by customers is increasing more and more. Based on the annual turnover on online sales in Germany and the turnover in fashion and accessories in the amount of EUR 11.1 billion with a return rate of 7%, the calculated annual loss incurred by abusive returns is EUR 397 million.

Only about 79% of the returned articles can be resold to customers as an A quality. The remaining articles are impaired and cannot be refreshed at reasonable cost or at all. The cost of examination, identification and aftertreatment (washing, pressing etc.) is about EUR 10 for each returned article. In addition to the aforementioned direct costs, there are enormous extra costs for transport, handling, unpacking and, where need may arise, disposal. Also, personnel costs need to be considered, because the examination of returns is performed by specially trained staff only.

Project title: » Manufacture of functional labels in the product return business of online-traded textiles

Project period: » 01/08/2020 – 31/07/2022

Project type: » Euronorm INNO-KOM MF 200033

Research locations: » Papiertechnische Stiftung PTS; Dept.: Functional Surfaces Dr. Yvonne Jüttke, Anke Steinberg; Sales: Jörg Hempel

Fig. 1: Schematic view of the paper-based label with functional layer structure and designed diffusion path of the indicator system (left). Enlarged view of the layers 1 – 3 with the effective indicator system and colour change (right).

We want to help reduce said losses in the millions in online-traded fashion and accessories. To do so, we designed three different demonstrators. Within the scope of the project presented here, the production of self-adhesive labels having a functional layer structure and an integrated indicator system for the detection of improper use of online-traded textile articles was performed under the conditions and according to the guidelines of SMEs for premium textile producers and traders. Specific physical and/or chemical influencing factors emanating from the human wearer are transported within the label, based on the purposeful use of the diffusion parameters in the layered structure, to the effective site of the indicator system to trigger a colour response, which allows for visual evaluation and final proof. The label can be readily used and easily replaced.

Fig. 2: Human skin with the various influencing factors in men and women (left) and their breakdown in mechanical, physical and chemical parameters (right).

The main focus is on:

• identification of specific influencing factors of the human body:

» physical factors such as heat, moisture, etc.

» chemical factors such as salts, proteins, etc.

» mechanical factors such as compressive load, friction, etc.

• visualization of signs of excessive wearing of textiles, e.g. time-delayed change in colour (colour matrix) by a matched indicator system that responds to influencing factors or external effects such as pH, pressure, temperature, time, etc.

• the conceptual model design of the label with functional layer structure for induced and time-controlled stimulus transmission to the indicator.

• easy and reliable detection of signs of abusive wearing by simple visual examination and thus reduction in loss from abusive product returns.The label is specifically adapted to and integrated in the textiles (dress, trousers, costume, shoes, etc.).

Fig. 3: Illustration of a possible examination procedure: a change in colour and thus abusive wearing can be detected quickly and easily.

Dr. Yvonne Jüttke,

Jörg Hempel,