Thursday, January 7, 2010

Herald Square's Trashgate

Where am I yesterday while H&M Herald Square's "Trashgate" (links to the story below) is gaining steam online? Ogling H&M Herald Square's new spring trends, of course. My timing is impeccable.

Lots of strong shoulders, adorable skirts, and cute pants.

Get these before the scissors do! (insert bad joke drum roll here)
Ha, no, I'm pretty sure spring trend will be selling out fast at H&M this season. Check out the back of these high-waisted pants in the mirror.

Did the fabulous visual people know, as they kindly helped me dig through piles to get my size, that the retail garbage was hitting the fan? I don't have any other facts about this specific case beyond what has been reported in The New York Times, but here's what I know and have just learned about this practice of disposing remainder, or left-over, clothing:

  • Ages ago, while working at a Chanel boutique and begging staff to give up sample sale information, I learned that Chanel, at that time and in order to protect their image, did not have sample sales and did not distribute their clothes to any discount outlets. Instead, remainders were trucked to a very private New Jersey location and burned. I liked to fantasize that somewhere in Jersey a truck driver's wife was working some serious couture.
  • A friend/ex-retail worker told me his company sent all their leftovers to corporate where they were destroyed. Why? The Times story today sheds some light on this practice when describing the New York Clothing Bank as a charitable organization that accepts retail leftovers and protects companies from "...people who might use the donations to get store credit or undercut sales."
  • A fashion insider explained that some retailers damage and dump excess goods so they cannot be illegally resold by competitors or discounters without the manufacturer getting a cut. However, she said it seemed strange for H&M to practice this, as why not mark it down and get a profit, or donate the items and get a tax break?
  • The same source said samples made overseas are slashed and damaged before being sent to the US, per our custom and trade laws. Samples are not made for sale, so in order for them to be taxed correctly they must have no resale value. In addition to slashing, some countries also have to write on the clothing in permanent ink. Local companies often give these samples to employees and most donate them to charity. Legally, companies cannot sell these samples, but if the damage can be repaired, some do. And sometimes the samples get tossed out with the garbage.

Certainly it's a company's prerogative to protect their image and sales. But I hope Trashgate inspires all retailers to rethink and revise their disposal policies in this time of great need and higher social and environmental consciousness. And hopefully, this little scandal, like all good scandals, will benefit non-profit groups like the New York Clothing Bank.

Finally, because it's what I do (and because in the Herald Square store I kept going back to the dressing room with armfuls of new spring items because it all looked so damn good on the floor), I'll be back next week to show you more spring trends from H&M Herald Square and H&M on 34th & 7th Avenue.

*Original story, follow-up coverage, Racked coverage (and I believe Racked must be credited with dubbing this story "Trashgate")


Secretista said...

This is crazy! I didn't even know this was being done!

Secretista said...

... Until the H&M story of course...

Lipstick said...

Very interesting....

Anonymous said...

Geez Louise! I've heard about Anthropologie doing similar things, maybe about a year ago. The Chanel tidbit is truly astounding.

39th and Broadway said...


Couture Carrie said...

Hi gorgeoous!
Great to hear from you!


WendyB said...

You've added more interesting perspective to this than anyone else I've read.

Tricia said...

Secretista - not many people knew about this, which is surprising with retail staff being involved!
Lipstick - yup.
Sal - looks like others had heard this of Anthropologie, too, I saw something on the H&M Facebook page.
39th - exactly.
Couture - good to be back and checking out your gorgeous blog!
Wendy - now that's a compliment, esp. considering the source. thank you!

La Belette Rouge said...

What a waste. I hadn't heard about Trashgate before coming here.
And, sadly, I haven't wished you a happy 2010 and I haven't seen a baby picture. I think of you often and hope all is well.xoxo

eeps. said...

alert me when that h&m garden collection is out! me wantee!