Are H&M Stores Cutting Up Unsold Clothing?

H&M stores, New York, Manhattan, Herald Square, fashion, homeless, policy, industry, retail, clothing, New York Cares, trash, poor, coats, merchandise, unsold

Well, that's one way to get rid of unsold merchandise… The New York Times is reporting that the Herald Square H&M store in Manhattan gets rid of clothing by destroying it completely and throwing it away in trash bags. Though this has been called a common industry practice, it's absolutely despicable in a city where many are shivering, poor and in need of a little extra warmth.

“Warm socks. Cute patent leather Mary Jane school shoes, maybe for fourth graders, with the instep cut up with a scissor. Men’s jackets, slashed across the body and the arms. The puffy fiber fill was coming out in big white cotton balls,” said one woman who came across a bag of discarded items.

To add insult to injury, there's a major collection point for New York Cares within walking distance of the store. All of those garments could have easily been donated to the organization, which conducts an annual coat drive. Those coats with the cotton balls coming out, some of which were marked for $129? They could have kept a homeless person warm.

Now, this isn't just a problem with H&M. Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, Gamestop and several other retailers have been known to engage in such practices. Officials from the company did not respond to inquiries when the article was written, but the company released a statement to say that they'd be investigating this matter. "Our policy is to donate any damaged usable garments to charity," they wrote. So either someone wasn't following the policy or they're just doing some serious damage control…

UPDATE: A follow-up to the original article has been released, brought to me by a little bird on Twitter.

– Dewitt

18 thoughts on “Are H&M Stores Cutting Up Unsold Clothing?

  1. I’m gonna say damage control. They knew darn well what they were doing, and it’s shameful. It’s also business. The two seem to go hand in hand unfortunately. But it’s part of the society we live in. Not acceptable, but accepted.

  2. Damage control in my mind, too. They know they’ve got an expensive product on their hands, and that’s probably reason enough for them to not want to donate clothes to charities. What? You think those homeless people deserve to be dressed in OUR label? That’s ridiculous. It’s OUR label!

  3. it is not about we are better then them, its value and scaricity. if you can go to goodwill or where ever and get the exact same coat for almost free verses purchasing it for $100+ the brand loses. who would want to buy it then?
    virtually all retail stores do this.

  4. Dior (among other designer lables) burn everything after the season is over. Some houses don’t make very much profit off of thier clothing lines but thier stores look empty (not to mention less elegant) without clothing in them so they produce clothing lines as decor. It looks really bad to clearance the stuff or send it to outlets so they burn it.
    I don’t really get why H&M would destroy thier merch when it’s a write off. I mean, half the people who shop there look homeless anyway.

  5. As far as I know most clothing retailers do this…and it is very sad. Most companies started off making donations of damaged clothes to charities. Then some people ruined it for everyone when returning the clothes they bought as a discounted price for either a full refund or the price the garments were sold at in stores. This is just like most unfair this in the world…one group ruined it for all.

  6. I used to work for Blockbuster, and they made us do the same thing. After a movie had been out for a certain amount of time they would have us destroy the copies that they no longer needed, and we would just throw them in the dumpster afterward. I HATED when I was asked to do this because it felt like such a waste. Yes, movies aren’t as much of a necessity as clothing, but still. I actually had a manager who would let us take whatever we wanted, which is why my movie collection is full of movies that I have never seen, nor have any intention of watching…lol. I am sure that many employees did this, which is why they started having us return the destroyed copies back to cooperate where they would be counted for verification. I think it is just ridiculous that they do this, why not sell them for a $1.00 or something, or ‘gasp’ donate them.

  7. I am going 2 damage control as well and not shop in these stores . N economy with People struggling 2 stay a step above water and these companies r destroying perfectly good merchandise that could be donated 2 needy and they are destroying it !!! it is corporate America greedy and stupidity that put this country in the mess that we are in today !!!

  8. i don’t blame them at all. i know it sounds horrible, but pull the knives out of your bleeding hearts and actually look at the real world guys. yes, homeless people need clothes. but of the people who buy these labels see that the town is full of homeless people wearing the label, then no one is going to want to buy the label. it will be considered welfare clothes. the store would die.

  9. Who wants to buy clothes some bum is wearing. If the homeless wants designer duds let them get a job.

  10. that’s capitalism for you.
    i guess.
    realistically, it’s not a good idea to let The Indigent waltz around in outfits that would eat up three of _my_ paychecks to acquire, legally.
    but there has to be a better way to go about it, than completely destroying merchandise (that children in sweatshops had likely fabricated, anyway).
    is there not a way to recycle the material?
    or, perhaps, implement a Made To Order system?
    (p.s.: @jack, 5:59 p.m. — you’re not being serious with your latter statement, are you?)

  11. First of all I would like to say the clothes at H&M are not made in sweat shops by children…you are thinking of the GAP. Secondly the reason why most retailers…not just H&M…destroy they’re damaged garments is because if they are given to charities people often buy the clothes at a extremely discounted price and then try and return the clothes at the store for a full refund. Its sad that some people need to ruin something for everyone…and in this case for some people who really need it.

  12. Dispicable- this just shows that they are greedy profiteering arseholes!! Its that whole grad 4 mentality of “i don’t want it but you still can’t have it” but on a larger scale.
    It doesn’t even make sense- whether they donate or slash their clothing they’re losing money so why not help out those less fortunate?
    Op shops (i think you call them thrift stores in america) in Australia often have designer clothes on their racks that have never been worn, and you know what? That prada bag or gucci sweater they got for a 5th of the price might be the only designer garment that lower economic group person may ever own and may mean the world to them.
    So why can’t they jsut take the higher road and say, “you know what? We may not be making any money from this but at least we’re making some needy people happy”
    Uggh, i hate the industry’s mentality.

  13. Excuses, excuses. If stores are worried about people returning donated clothes for money, just create a special stamp or something, or punch a hole in the collar to mark it… There are many solutions that require minimum effort. It’s just the lazy approach to destroy them and throw them away.
    America is a culture of wasting and this is only a small part of it. How much food goes to waste each day? And they aren’t even allowed to be donated because of health regulations. There will be a solution if people work on it. How many barely-used bars of soap and bottles of shampoo gets thrown out from hotels every day, while impoverished people around the world die from diseases preventable by soap? Fortunately there is now a charity for the soap issue. See – One of the best ideas I’ve seen recently!

  14. Yes, I work in retail, and the problem is American PEOPLE, not the companies. You could come up with whatever manner you wanted to mark clothes that were donated so that they couldn’t be returned, customers would still come into the store and instigate arguments and cause scenes over not getting the treatment they want. I had a woman try to return shoes she had owned for EIGHT YEARS because she still had the receipt, and my manager actually gave her a full refund. People buy two pairs of jeans and sew the tags from the more expensive pair into the cheaper pair, then try to return the cheap one for the full price of the expensive one and insist the tags were that way when they bought them. People bring things in from thrift stores that my store doesn’t even make anymore and try to get a store credit for it, or want to exchange it for other merchandise. People in this country are RIDICULOUS. Anything to save a dollar.

  15. Boy, where do I begin? For starters, my first response is tax write-off. Rather than sell something at a discount, companies can get the full value of an item by ruining it and reporting it to the IRS. But in this recycling-minded day and age, it’s a waste of resources to make something, then destroy it, only to turn around and replace it (I may be telling my age, but I can remember when milk and soft drinks used to be sold in returnable bottles, thereby contributing very little to the landfills). // Another issue that was raised is the cost factor. I don’t begrudge anybody what they spend their money on, but with the exception of cars and houses where the prices are obvious, only you know what you spent on a piece of clothing. I have a friend who thinks nothing of buying a shirt that would equal for me the amount of three credit card payments. To me, cost and value are two different things. // I’m also reminded of the M*A*S*H* Christmas episode where Charles is incensed when the expensive fudge he gives to an orphanage is sold on the black market for a month’s worth of essentials for the children. “It’s hard to offer a child dessert when he hasn’t had dinner.”

  16. As far as Blockbuster goes, they destroy the dvd’s as part of the profit sharing contracts with the movie studios. Blockbuster would rather sell the previously viewed dvd for profit, however, the contracts with the movie studios state that they must destroy a certain percentage of the dvd’s that the company carries, then the destroyed dvd’s are returned to corporate for verification. Any shortages found is a violation of the contract and the company can face fines and lawsuits and loss of cooperation with the movie studios.
    As far as the clothing goes,it’s once again contracts with vendors that the companies carry. Especially when they are non-private labels. There is a lot of legal stuff involved, and then there’s the shady public ripping off retailers, and the de-valuation of the product itself. Yes, it’s selfish, but that’s the cold world of business.

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