Burberry destroyed $38 million worth of clothing and cosmetics — and people are really upset
Burberry has done away with its leftovers — and people are fuming.
According to the British fashion house’s latest annual reports, $38 million worth of extra stock — ranging from clothing and accessories to fragrance and perfume — was physically burned in 2018. As the Times of London notes, that’s the equivalent of more than 20,000 trench coats — one of which was recently worn by Melania Trump — and marks a 50 percent increase in the value of product waste over the last two years.
All told, more than £90 million — roughly $116 million — worth of product has reportedly been destroyed over five years. Burberry — which is not the only luxury label to ditch leftovers — defended its actions, telling the Times that it donated what it could for recycling and targeted only trademarked products. The brand added that its new beauty license with Coty called for unsold, pre-Coty cosmetics products to be destroyed.
“Burberry has careful processes in place to minimize the amount of excess stock we produce,” a statement from the company read. “On the occasions when disposal of products is necessary, we do so in a responsible manner, and we continue to seek ways to reduce and revalue our waste.”
But there may be more to the story. Sources have told the Times that the destruction of leftover stock is a means to protect the brand’s integrity. By burning leftovers, Burberry — which takes a hard line on counterfeiting and copyright, as illustrated by a recent lawsuit against Target over a check print — is allegedly trying to prevent its wares from being discounted and sold to the “wrong people.”
As the Business of Fashion has reported, Burberry shareholders have questioned the practice, citing environmental concerns and suggesting that they and others be given the opportunity to purchase products at slashed prices.
Shoppers are also worked up over the waste, calling it “disgusting” and expressing outrage that the excess products aren’t given to charity.
Millions struggling worldwide in poverty and @Burberry choose to destroy 28mil worth of stock to "protect their brand". Get your head out your arse man
— Joe (@TheGMTEL) July 19, 2018
This is disgusting, @burberry https://t.co/4VdMZ3ReGX pic.twitter.com/IbDnLuXmZI
— Lauren Collins (@laurenzcollins) July 19, 2018
@Burberry actions like yours fucking disgust me, clothing and items could go to charities and the poor. But to keep your image within the snobs of this world you burn those items. #shame
— Maybe a Dude (@Smooglefish) July 19, 2018
@Burberry You disgust me. Utter waste, for no humane reason, just profit. Pathetic. Makes me proud never to have bought your brand and now I never will.
You should be ashamed.
Shame on you!
— Finya (@Finya) July 19, 2018
I get why @burberry would want to protect their brand image by destroying products rather than donate them as is. But surely a better solution is to de-brand the products, remove all labels, possibly dye items black or something to obscure the pattern and then donate anonymously?
— dom. (@Inkydom) 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 don’t find this shocking — of course Burberry and others burn stock — but I do find it disgusting. Waste and pollution just to preserve the artificial sense of scarcity these brands rely on https://t.co/2fj8WvZ5o6
— Mic Wright (@brokenbottleboy) July 19, 2018
£28.6m worth of clothes destroyed by Burberry, including jumpers and coats.
In the year we had the coldest winter on record and an ever-growing homelessness crisis – surely giving the clothes to charities or shelter would have crossed someone's mind?
— Dominic McGregor (@DominicMcGregor) July 19, 2018
Amazing story. @Burberry burned £28million of unsold stock last year rather than sell clothes at discount. I knew luxury goods firms went to great lengths to protect brand/prices but this is madness 🔥🧥 https://t.co/6hZ2VRsFgZ
— Harry Wallop (@hwallop) 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
Some commenters suggested that they might donate their own Burberry merchandise to charity shops to sabotage the brand’s alleged concerns about maintaining prestige.
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