In its annual report, Burberry’s reported destroying $37.8 million in unsold inventory. The total of goods destroyed by Burberry over the last five years is more than $150 million. Burberry is not the only luxury brand that destroys unsold inventory.
To be fair, there can be practical reasons for destroying inventory. For example, H&M, the Swedish fashion company, is struggling with an inventory of unsold clothes worth $4 billion—and this is a contributing factor dragging down profits by 28% in the first half of 2018.
Rather than destroy the unsold inventory, a remedy would be to remainder the goods—sell in quantity to jobbers and discount wholesalers. However, this involves loss of control and this is precisely why luxury brands destroy the unsold inventory—they don’t want the goods, which includes apparel, accessories and fragrance—to wind up in the hands of counterfeiters or to be sold as gray market or to be offered on the Internet at a steep discount.
However, destroying so much unwanted goods, comes at another cost—outrage from environmentalists, shareholders, and the public who don’t approve of the practice.