More than £90 million of Burberry products have been destroyed over the past five years as the fashion brand suffers a continued downturn in sales.
The label, known for its expensive trench coats and trademarked check design, reportedly destroyed more than £28 million of its own products in the past year alone in order to stop them falling into the ‘grey market’, being bought by the ‘wrong’ people, and to guard against counterfeiting.
According to a report by The Times, Burberry admitted to burning unsold stock with special incinerators and harnessing the energy produced.
It takes a year for each specialist tailor to learn the stitching of the collar – the most intricate part of the #Burberry trench coat’s construction. More than 180 stitches are made to create a fluid curve so that the collar sits perfectly on the neck . Tancrede wraps up in The Chelsea in classic honey . Styled by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen for #Burberry. Captured in a new #BurberryPhotoSeries by Thurstan Redding. The #TrenchReimagined
Industry insiders suggested luxury brands such as Burberry also destroy their unwanted products rather than sell them on or recycle them in order to protect their intellectual property and ‘brand values’.
As you can probably imagine, people are outraged:
So the Burberry Company
would rather DESTROY their access stock at end of year
Than let us common folk start wearing their stuff
— rosita stefanyszyn (@rositastef) July 19, 2018
Burberry burned £30m worth of their goods last year to “protect the brand” … the world’s gone fucking nuts
— FionaJ (@WeAreOneEU) July 19, 2018
Surely the clothes could have been auctioned, give forbid they're given to anyone, and the funds given to the many millions who need help?
— Bolshie Bear (@BolshieBear) July 19, 2018
How do #Burberry decide who the wrong type of people are for their clothing range. Maybe donating old stock could help those in need. However that probably doesn't cross their minds because it's far away from their ideal lives
— ★Јɘssiса-aӏісɘ★ (@Jessiica2) July 19, 2018
I'm so disgusted by your clothes burning tomorrow I'm going to Covent Garden and giving my old Burberry coats skirts and Jackets to the homeless shelter,I'm the wrong sort of person to wear your clothing!
— TJ (@snowdrop284) July 19, 2018
There are people out there who can barely afford clothes and Burberry burnt £28 million worth of product because of complete snobbery.
Rich people make me want to throw up.
— Shelly?️? (@shelly_tompkins) July 19, 2018
Burberry burning £90m of unsold clobber in 5 years so it’s not worn by the “wrong people” is criminal capitalism. Why not donate it to clothes banks and the homeless? Discussing on @skynews papers in a mo
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) July 18, 2018
Destroying products has become common in the fashion industry, reports Huffington Post, as retailers also use it to prevent illegal counterfeiting by ensuring the supply chain remains intact.
Burberry has seen the value of its waste rise by 50 per cent in the last two years while sales of the luxury clothing brand have fallen. This has led to unhappy shareholders questioning the brand’s decision, and asking why they weren’t offered the products as private investors.
Other analysts suggest higher prices in China and south-east Asia are causing the excess stock, where the average price of a rucksack is around £1,000.
The destructive practice of getting rid of unwanted products has naturally angered environmentalists, and it’s not only Burberry who do it.
High-street store H&M has admitted to also burning unwanted stock, however the energy produced helps power the Swedish city of Västerås, an industrial city where H&M was founded.
Other brands to burn unwanted stock included Richemont, the company that owns Cartier and Montblanc, who destroyed more than £400 million of watches in two years after buying back unwanted stock from jewellers.
The ‘grey market’ refers to the unofficial distribution of products. Though it is not illegal, the ‘grey market’ trade is an unintended channel by the original manufacturer. Grey market products are often sold to a trader outside the terms of the agreement between the reseller and manufacturer.
According to the charity WRAP, the value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion, with approximately £140 million worth of clothing going to landfill each year.
Instead of binning old or unwanted clothes, the charity advises people to re-sell, swap and share, donate to charity or recycle old garments.
Although the amounts of clothing being sent to landfill has been falling recently, a quarter of all clothes are still binned rather than recycled.
The Guardian report 1.13 million tonnes of clothes were bought in 2016, causing 26 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from production to disposal, making clothing almost as impactful on the environment as housing and transport.
Steve Creed, director of the WRAP business programme, said:
It’s great that fewer clothes are ending up in the residual waste, but overall our carbon footprint is rising so the next few years are critical in balancing growing demand with supplying clothes more sustainably.
The charity is aiming to raise awareness of sustainable fashion, while recycling – not burning or throwing away – old or unwanted clothes.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.