Luxury fashion brand Coach has been accused of intentionally destroying their own unsold merchandise. Coach has been exposed after a TikTok viral video by Anna Sacks, who goes by @thetrashwalker on the app and Instagram, showed a number of Coach bags that have been slashed:
“As you can see, they’re all slashed, which is Coach’s policy. This is what they do with unwanted merchandise. They order an employee to deliberately slash it so no one can use it, and then they write it off as a tax write-off under the same tax loophole as if it were accidentally destroyed,” Sacks said in the video.
Coach says it will no longer destroy unsold goods
After this TikTok video went viral exposing Coach, the luxury fashion brand released a statement on social media pledging to stop destroying and throwing away unsold bags and automatically mentioning how Coach has donated product valued $55 million to support low income families, individuals in need, those reentering the workforce and education programs:
Something that would have made a difference in the eyes of the consumers if Coach had not made a commitment to sustainability earlier this year introducing their new programme called Coach (Re) Loved, giving beloved bags a second life, and additionally a trade-in program where customers can recycle their pre-owned Coach for store credit.
Plus, in my opinion, mentioning the amount of money donated by Coach in this press release was not the right thing to do. First of all, because Coach tries to excuse their mistake and justify themselves with the money they donate to different causes. And on the other hand, implying that no one can reproach them for anything they have done because thanks to Coach and the money they invest in different causes, they are helping many other people.
Confirming, once again, that everything they have done so far is just greenwashing. This is rather disappointing because despite knowing from the beginning that all these eco-friendly initiatives are socially pressured, at least they are doing something, even if they could do better.
Fashion’s Dirty Secret
However, fashion brands destroying their unsold stock shouldn’t be a surprise for everyone. In fact, this is a very common practice in the fashion industry. We all know that the fashion industry is one of the world’s worst polluters, but without doubt, destroying their own goods in an effort to maintain prestige is the dirtiest secret of them all.
In 2018, Burberry admitted in its annual report that destroying goods was just part of its strategy to preserve its reputation of exclusivity.
People decided to boycott Burberry over its wastefulness and the members of Parliament demanded the British government crack down on the practice. And it worked. Burberry announced it would no longer destroy its excess product ever again.
Yet, Burberry wasn’t the only company using this practice: Louis Vuitton, Nike and even the fast-fashion retailer H&M had burnt 60 tons of new and unsold clothes since 2013.
Why Fashion Brands Destroy their own Merchandise Every Year
There is another simple explanation why these fashion brands destroy their own merchandise every day. In the current model of the fashion industry, collections change seasonally, even every two weeks, lasting a short period of time and offering different sizes for each model, which increases the risk of unsold products.
So, instead of donating or offering discounts for their no longer “trendy” goods, they would rather burn them or slash their surplus stock, even if it is in good condition, to prevent it from being resold or returned for cash.
Amazon is another example of this that I was not aware of. According to an investigation from ITV News, Amazon was and is still destroying hundreds of thousands of products that were never sold, or returned by customers, each week. All these products which are in perfect condition are thrown into vast bins, carried away by lorries (which ITV traced) and dumped at either recycling centres, or worse, a landfill site.
This is something that has shocked me personally because although I am aware that Amazon is not the most ethical and sustainable company in the world, I consider that the UK takes recycling and donations very seriously, so I wouldn’t be surprised if extreme measures have been taken or will be taken to prevent this from happening again.
What can we do as consumers to prevent this from happening again?
This is not something that is only happening in the fashion industry. This is extrapolated to basically every industry, and I will not pretend to have a magic solution for it, to be honest.
Although much of the responsibility for this change relies on organisations and political groups to be effective almost immediately – which is why it is very important that we do our bit and participate in the system and vote in elections-, that doesn’t mean that we as consumers cannot do our bit.
As I have mentioned several times before, social media is a very powerful tool and we can use it for good. If you see these things on the news, share the news and talk about it with your friends and followers, demand brands to do something about it. I assure you that social pressure is our greatest ally for change.
Did you know that Coach and other brands – including luxury and fast-fashion fashion brands – destroy their own merchandise so as not to devalue their brands? Do you know of any other brands that have done this before or have you worked in the sector and would like to share your experience?