Burberry, the upmarket British fashion label, destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m last year to protect its brand.
It takes the total value of goods it has destroyed over the past five years to more than £90m.
Fashion firms including Burberry destroy unwanted items to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply.
Burberry said that the energy generated from burning its products was captured, making it environmentally friendly.
“Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce. 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,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Over the past few years, Burberry has been working hard to make its brand exclusive again after it went through a phase when counterfeiters were “sticking the Burberry check on anything they could”, said Maria Malone, principal lecturer on the fashion business at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Destroying unwanted products is part of that process, she said.
“The reason they are doing this is so that the market is not flooded with discounts. They don’t want Burberry products to get into the hands of anyone who can sell them at a discount and devalue the brand,” Ms Malone said.
The disposal of the unwanted goods shows that Burberry’s turnaround effort under new Chief Executive Officer Marco Gobbetti and designer Riccardo Tisci remains unfinished business. It’s also a matter of environmental concern to some investors, with one asking during Burberry’s annual meeting this week why shareholders couldn’t be given the chance to buy the items.
John Peace, the outgoing chairman, said destroying stock is “not something we do lightly” and Chief Financial Officer Julie Brown said “we take it extremely seriously.” More cosmetics needed to be destroyed this year as Burberry’s beauty line was acquired by Coty, Brown said. Gobbetti said Burberry has been donating leftover leather to Elvis & Kresse, a fashion company that recycles castoffs into new products, since 2017.
Tim Jackson, head of the British School of Fashion at the London campus of Glasgow Caledonian University, said luxury fashion firms such as Burberry faced a paradox.
To satisfy shareholders, they have to keep expanding even if that risks “diluting their identity and creating excess stock”, he said.
“There’s no way they are ever going to solve this problem.”