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LONDON – Apparel Insider has uncovered a clear divide between the US and Europe on the issue of how apparel brands deal with unsold stock. In the wake of the Burberry stock incineration furore and the luxury brand’s decision to burn £28m of unsold stock, we reached out to 20 international brands and retailers to ask about their policy on waste inventory. While a handful of answers are still to come in, it is already clear that European retailers, perhaps thanks to the EU’s strict policies on waste disposal, are leading the way on this emotive subject.

C&A told it follows the EU waste management hierarchy (Directive 2008/98/EC on waste). Perhaps Burberry could have taken a leaf out of C&A’s book here. “Destroying over-capacities to protect the brand, its reputation or the company’s price policy is and has never been the C&A approach,” a company spokesperson told us.

Italian business Benetton, meanwhile, told us it prefers to use other sustainable ways to dispose of unsold garments, such as selling them through outlets or via charitable donations.

The world’s largest retailer, Inditex, told us it never destroys unsold products. Key, here, is Inditex’s sophisticated logistics which sees the business buying relatively small batches of products at the start of the season. The business also benefits by purchasing most of its products from factories in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Turkey, close to its headquarters, meaning it benefits from having a flexible and quick supply chain.

If we are to flip this around, H&M’s sprawling South East Asian and Chinese supply chains perhaps go some way towards explaining why it has struggled greatly with excess inventory issues in the past 12 months. We are awaiting H&M’s response on this issue with interest.

But what about the US? So far, five brands, which shall remain nameless – for now – have come back to us. All declined to answer our questions on this issue.

Readers can read into that what they will.

The full, extended feature will appear in the next printed issue of Apparel Insider. To subscribe, click HERE.

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