Fashion retailers keep burning, discarding clothes

Retailers miss the boat on helping those in need

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Photo credit: Pablo Heimplatz/Unsplash

Retailers, it’s really not that hard to donate inventory

Donating used clothing and household items are fairly easy. Donating new clothing or any other new item? Even simpler. I know this because I regularly donate countless items on Craigslist and Freecycle. The newer and better quality the item is, the more smartphone and email alerts I get. When I’m not in the mood to do meet-ups, I’ll grab a bag and donate items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Why? Second-hand stores and charities can often get better quality clothing off the hangers and to the register. In turn, their focus areas get funding, too.

Recommended Read: “In 2020, be less weird during Craigslist pickups ~ Why do Freecycle people bring out their ‘inner weirdo’ when getting free stuff?

And even when shoppers or online users aren’t interested in my items, there are two pretty important groups who may not be found browsing through thrift stores. And they can usually use these items more than the smartphone user or the second-hand connoisseur: homeless women or domestic violence survivors. While men are the “overwhelming majority” of the homeless population, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, that still leaves 106,119 homeless women around the world who may need women’s clothing and gently used undergarments. (In Colorado, the homeless population is approximately 9,619.)

Retailers are notorious for wasting inventory, hurting environment

Incinerating unsold clothing is yet another concern in the retail world. It’s problematic because of its environmental threat — and the reason luxury companies like Burberry stopped doing so. But throwing store inventory away just leads to them ending up in the same dirty landfills, emitting methane — a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon.

Should knock-off companies be able to purchase discarded items?

Would it make more sense to allow savvy salespeople the opportunity to sell clearance items online, if former and current employees are banned from doing so? If the store doesn’t want the profit, why can’t these folks get it? Again, from a business perspective, there are drawbacks. Companies are already fighting against knock-offs being sold online as is, so selling lesser-value items could potentially create a new problem.

Recommended Read: “What Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show should’ve taught Victoria’s Secret ~ This Victoria’s Secret customer is reevaluating her shopping choices

But that doesn’t appear to be the concern here. These bras were just “sample” products” that were categorized as “damaged.” Meanwhile, perfectly usable products are being cut up, burned and thrown away for no other reason than being “old” or “used.” The truth is they just aren’t being sold within the company’s preferred timeline. If another store cannot or will not use them, then the original store is stuck with the items. Selling these products at lower rates can make a high-priced store look “cheap.” And if the clothing that is “cheap” cannot be sold at bottom-of-the-barrel clearance pricing, what else is there to do with it? The answer is still not throw it away or burn it though.

How customers can make retailers reevaluate discarding clothing

As a Victoria’s Secret customer, this kind of news — even for a location that closed its doors — is disappointing. And if any of the 50 closed Victoria’s Secret stores all had similar ideas, that’s even worse. A lot of women could’ve used these bras, including Free the Girls, The Bra Recyclers, Soma, I Support the Girls and more.

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Photo credit: Mathieu Turle/Unsplash

When customers use their sustainable-supporting dollars more

One of the best ways to make retailers pay attention to how they treat their inventory (minus flimsy fast fashion) is to consider supporting sustainable fashion clothing lines. For example, Burberry reportedly started working with sustainable luxury company Elvis & Kresse in 2018 to transform 120 tons of leather off-cuts from the Burberry supply chain into new products. (And Elvis & Kresse is already donating 50 percent of one line of their products to The Fire Fighters Charity.)

Recommended Read: “The laziness that creates fast fashion ~ How ‘The Patriot Act’ made me dust off my fashion design skills

So while customers cannot be the store monitor for all retailer activity once they leave the store, how we spend our money while we’re in the stores is just as important, too. Your ideas for how to help those in need shouldn’t be thrown away anymore than your bras, your clothes or your money. Victoria’s Secret, take notes.

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Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit to read about her.

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