Where do they go?
November 5, 2007 8:58 AM   Subscribe

What do stores do with the racks and racks of clothes that just won't sell?

At Old Navy, there are racks of unpopular clothes selling for $3.97, lower than you could even get them at Goodwill. Next week they will have disappeared, but not because they were sold.

I shop at a lot of thrift stores and there is never a huge mass of completely unworn semi-unfashionable Old Navy and Gap clothes, so I don't think they're going there. (Not to mention it can't be good for stores to have their name brands plastered all over Goodwills.)

What do stores and manufacturers do with all those unsold clothes? Are they sent to 3rd world charities? Are they torn up and somehow recycled?
posted by esereth to Shopping (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have definitely seen clothing at thrift stores that is obviously unused, usually with identifying tags cut out, but occasionally with price tags still attached!
posted by mkb at 9:09 AM on November 5, 2007

Yes I've seen them too - there's a Goodwill near a Target and they always get Target stuff that didn't sell. Don't they sometimes turn up at outlets as well?
posted by citron at 9:11 AM on November 5, 2007

It varies widely by store. Some actually just throw stuff out, some sell it at discount stores, some donate/give away. I think some recycle.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:11 AM on November 5, 2007

Around here, Burlington Coat Factory seems to be where clothes end up. It's usually the only place to get clothes in-season when the other stores have already moved on - need a swimsuit in July, BCF will probably have one.
posted by tommasz at 9:19 AM on November 5, 2007

once i drove by (and visited) a gap clearance center which had tons and tons of clothes (like the ones you mentioned) from old navy, the gap and banana republic. not much priced over $10. not sure where else in the country these exist nor what other retail chains do, but that seems to be where a lot of old navy/gap/banana's leftovers went.
posted by boygirlparty at 9:23 AM on November 5, 2007

I've also occasionally seen clothes like that, with the labels cut out, at places like Marshall's and TJ Maxx.
posted by bassjump at 9:46 AM on November 5, 2007

They often end up at TK Maxx or those outlet places. I have been told that they will also sell them to companies that will cut them into dusters too (which seems a total waste of clothing to me but there you go).
posted by ClanvidHorse at 9:51 AM on November 5, 2007

Here in the Southeast, we have a wonderful place called Hudson's Treasure Hunt. They buy stock that has been water/smoke damaged, complete stores that have gone out of business, and, I'm assuming, lots of clothing that have not sold. If you are patient, there are some great deals. (Things that do not sell at the Hudson's then get banished to Hudson's Dirt Cheap, a scary little place where one could buy exploded batteries, single shoes and pre-opened bags of potato chips if one were so inclined.)
posted by thebrokedown at 10:12 AM on November 5, 2007

Best answer: The retailer moves it to their discount outlet, or sells it to a jobber, who takes the clothes to their next destination, the off-price department stores. If someone still hasn’t snapped up those garments by the time they’ve made it down to the bottom of the retail food chain, they’ll be bundled together in a large bale with other discards and sold for cents per pound to a clothing broker. From there the goods could end up in a flea market, a Goodwill shop or on a ship headed to a Third World nation.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:31 AM on November 5, 2007

In VA, MD, PA and WV there is a chain called Gabriel Brothers that sells just out of season name brand clothes with the tags cut out, or clothes that must have been overstocks. You have to be patient and know when the delivery trucks come in, but its worth it for great deals such as sweaters for $1. My personal favaorite find was a fur coat that was originally $50, but I couldn't bear to pay 50 bucks for anything at Gabes and waited until it went on sale for $25.00!
posted by JennyJupiter at 10:56 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

boygirlparty has it right for the Gap branded stuff. *sigh* I miss that place. We're talking 3 pairs of jeans for $10! My old roommate used to buy clothes there and sell them for a good profit on eBay.

Also, that is where the returns went too, some of that merchandise had been worn before.
posted by lannanh at 11:09 AM on November 5, 2007

After TJ Maxx and Marshall's come Big Lots, Famous Mart, and National Wholesale Liquidators.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:46 AM on November 5, 2007

Unsold and used clothing also ends up shipped overseas in bulk. See for instance this article or this one. As the trade deficit widens, it becomes fairly cheap to ship surplus bulk clothing in otherwise empty containers to other nations.
posted by zachlipton at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2007

Had a friend who was GM at one of those overseas clothing shipping operations. We used to go bin-diving when we went to visit him - imagine a whole warehouse filled with bins of clothing, sorted by type, and huge multiton compressed blocks of clothes ready for shipping.

(At 10 cents a pound, couldn't beat the price, either!)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:35 PM on November 5, 2007

I have definitely seen clothing at thrift stores that is obviously unused, usually with identifying tags cut out, but occasionally with price tags still attached!

Um, I think that stuff "fell off the truck"
posted by nax at 6:04 PM on November 5, 2007

Best answer: As a former buyer for the largest department store chain in the states, I had some exposure to this.

At a certain point the money you can make on these clothes ceases to exceed the costs associated with any further handling / transportation / etc., and its a retailer's job to negotiate their way out of an ownership position before that point is reached. In the industry we call this Mark(ing) Out of Stock (MOS, for short). Essentially, you figure out what you're going to do with them (sell to discount shop or jobber, donate to Goodwill / overseas charitable org, etc.).

In the first option (selling), the objective is not negotiating a fair price so much as getting rid of the goods right now. This should not be a major part of a buyer's job, which is why many retailers simply donate excess product once the MOS is on the books. Donations are generally referred to as Gifts In Kind (GIK) in the supplier / receiver world, and, interestingly enough, most orgs that take these goods still assign them a monetary value in order to track their financial performance moving the goods from donor to beneficiary.

I'm actually working in a 3rd world country right now on some supply chain management strategy for an NGO that does just this type of thing, so I suppose I've come full circle on that one...
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:35 PM on November 5, 2007

To tack some info onto allkindsoftime's answer above, one of the liquidators that wind up getting MOS'd materials is Liquidation.com - You too can bid on a 100-piece lot of clothing, but you're probably going to have to arrange shipping yourself.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:15 PM on November 6, 2007

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