Joe Millar would rather give clothing away for free than have it become trash after seeing tremendous waste during his 31 years working in the retail clothing industry.
The owner of Colourblind Boutique in Charlottetown has worked everywhere from high-end fashion stores to second-hand companies and wasn’t surprised to read about bags of brand-new Carter’s OshKosh B’gosh kids’ clothes found near a garbage can outside of a Toronto mall, he said.
“Literally, I’ve been privy to the whole thing, so it’s funny people are being turned onto it now because this has been going on for a very long time.”
Knowing the environmental impact of his industry, Millar makes sure all the clothing in his store goes to good use, mainly by reducing an item’s price until it sells.
If that doesn’t work, he donates it to a women’s shelter, First Impressions P.E.I. (a non-profit organization providing clothing to women entering the workforce) or gives it to staff for free, he said.
“But that happens rarely because our sell-through is pretty much 100 per cent.”
Lots of local downtown clothing stores operate similarly—reduce, reduce, reduce and then donate—like kc clothing and Luna Eclectic Emporium.
Kim MacKenzie, owner of kc clothing, doesn’t see the sense in tossing things away, she said.
“It would pain me to throw something in the trash. It seems kind of counter productive ... the whole name of retail is trying to sell it. Not just make it and throw it out.”
There’s a huge difference between a larger retail stores and smaller shops, which lets the big ones operate with that level of wastefulness, she said
“We don’t make those margins that they’re making, so we wouldn’t be in business if we got rid of our clothing that way.”
The motivation behind these kinds of policies are to make clothing unwearable to keep it out of second-hand or discount stores," said Millar.
“They don’t want to undermine, especially in the second-hand market, their brand. It’s all about brand.”
If consumers see a brand’s wares in places like Winners, the companies think it devalues the rest of their products.
“Really at that point in time, it’s not about the consumer," said Miller. "It’s about how the consumer looks at a brand.”