While many people assume that excess clothing gets sold in sales, for many fashion brands this
option alone isn’t sufficient to address excess inventory. As Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi writes for
Eluxe Magazine, no matter how popular a clothing trend may be, there is always going to be
unsold merchandise at the end of every season.
Approaches to dealing with this excess can vary among retailers, with some more
environmentally and socially conscious than others. While many brands sell their stock to
discount stores like TK Maxx or The Outnet, other approaches include periodic online sales or
donations to foundations like Oxfam or the Salvation Army. Some companies will proactively
encourage customers to recycle their clothing at their stores in exchange for discounts, while
others might take old stock and “upcycle it” to sell as a new item. Textile waste can be sold to
companies that pick up damaged clothes and sell them onto developing countries.
However, many brands are still dumping clothing excess into landfill and it’s the luxury brands
(like Chanel, Burberry, Hermes and Louis Vuitton) that are the most resistant to alternative
measures, as discount sales or donations threaten the exclusivity and luxury image of their
brands. In fact, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jefferies publicly stated he would “rather burn
the clothes” than to encourage the perception that “just anybody” could wear them.
Dealing with old inventory – storing it or getting rid of it – is a multibillion dollar drain for retailers.
Many are turning to technology to sort this issue out, either by predicting consumer needs to
reduce production or the use of enhanced e-commerce websites and services to boost virtual
shopping. Some of these innovative platforms include RotaryView, which offers a 360 viewing
technology to enhance consumer confidence in online sales. Nextail, which is a virtual assistant
that retailers can use to make smarter decisions around stock optimisation. Meanwhile, Inturn is
a start-up that allows brands to efficiently sell excess inventory to retailers in private online
However, while many fashion brands are taking the heat for the fashion waste crisis and turning
to various waste-management solutions, Gabardi notes that consumers are also part of the
problem. Changes in consumer behaviour – both consumption and waste – can also be
addressed through reduced purchasing and recycling of used items.