It’s a badly kept secret that many fashion brands have a deadstock problem that has huge environmental impacts. The practice of destroying unused, worn and damaged products has long been ‘normal’ for many brands.
Destroying products is often the least expensive, and easy option, rather than spending money and resources to find ways to repurpose, fix or recycle them. Many luxury brands see destroying unsold and worn products as a way of ensuring brand value is retained.
It’s important to note that it is impossible to fix the problem entirely without addressing the root cause of overproduction which is fuelled by brands’ need to have continuous sales growth.
There have been legal developments to prevent deadstock from entering landfills in Europe, including a wide-ranging anti-waste law that was passed in France in January 2020 which bans the disposal of any unsold non-food product. According to the French government, €630 million ($757.79 million) worth of unsold non-food products is destroyed every year in France, including between 10,000 to 20,000 tons of textile products.
Returned and shop-soiled products can be tricky to resell because many businesses are not equipped with the necessary infrastructure or technological capacity. It’s a huge problem, and with the continued growth of online sales, it’s one that will continue to grow unless there is a dramatic change in their processes.
There are ways to help reduce the number of items destined for destruction, and many brands are now looking at donating clothes or offering them to resale sites. There has also been an increase in luxury brands expanding their repair and replacement service to help prolong the life of their customers’ purchases.
What happens to the shopsoiled and dirty clothes? Many just need a freshen-up or wash to remove stains, but retail staff rarely have the time or the resources to do this.
In early 2022, one London flagship store was supplied with 2 w’air devices, a versatile handheld cleaning system that uses innovative hydrodynamic technology for unparalleled cleaning results. It was put to use by the retail team on shop-soiled garments as well as a way to refresh stock room items.
After a 2-month trial, the faulty stock was reduced by up to 22%, an average of 15 units per month saved from going to landfill. The saving per store is estimated to be £1,710 per month, that’s £20,520 per year! Following this initial success, the brand has now rolled out the cleaning system across all their UK & Eire stores, with the retail team highly engaged with the strong sustainable message.
There’s no one quick solution to deadstock, and brands need to look across their supply chain for ways to reduce their impact. But changes at every step and area in their business can have an impact on a brand's reputation, bottom line and the environment.