What Happens to the Unsold Clothes and Shoes in Retail Stores?

Retail stores face the challenge of managing inventory, and sometimes, there are unsold clothes and shoes left on the shelves. The fate of these unsold items is a topic of interest to many consumers and environmentally conscious individuals. In this blog post, we will explore what happens to unsold clothes and shoes in retail stores, shedding light on the various practices retailers employ to handle excess inventory responsibly.

What Happens to the unsold Clothes and Shoes in Retail Stores?

Unsold clothes and shoes in retail stores are managed through markdowns, donations to charities, recycling, clearance outlets, online sales, returns and exchanges, private sales, repurposing, and sample sales. These strategies aim to clear out excess inventory responsibly while promoting sustainability and social responsibility in the retail industry.

Strategies for Unsold Clothes and Shoes in Retail StoresDescription
Markdowns and SalesOffering discounts to entice customers to purchase.
Donations to CharitiesDonating items to charitable organizations.
Recycling and UpcyclingTransforming items into new products or materials.
Liquidation and Clearance OutletsSelling items at discounted rates in dedicated stores.
Online Retail and E-commerce PlatformsSelling unsold items through online channels.
Returns and ExchangesAllowing eligible items to be returned or exchanged.
Private Sales and VIP DiscountsOffering exclusive sales to loyal or VIP customers.
Repurposing and Sample SalesRepurposing items for future collections or samples.

Summary: Retail stores handle unsold clothes and shoes through various strategies. They may offer discounts, donate to charities, recycle, use clearance outlets, sell online, allow returns and exchanges, provide private sales, or repurpose items for sample sales. These practices promote responsible inventory management and sustainability in the retail industry.

  1. Markdowns and Sales: One common strategy that retail stores use to clear out unsold clothes and shoes is through markdowns and sales. As the items approach the end of their selling season or when new collections are about to be introduced, retailers may offer discounts to entice customers to make purchases.
  2. Donations to Charities: Many retailers choose to donate unsold clothes and shoes to charitable organizations. This approach not only helps those in need but also promotes the store’s reputation as a socially responsible company. Donated items can support local communities or be sent to organizations that distribute clothing to underprivileged regions around the world.
  3. Recycling and Upcycling: In recent years, sustainability initiatives have gained momentum in the retail industry. Some retailers partner with recycling and upcycling organizations to responsibly dispose of unsold clothes and shoes. These items may be transformed into new products or used as raw materials for various purposes.
  4. Liquidation and Clearance Outlets: To recoup some of the costs, retailers may send unsold items to liquidation centers or clearance outlets. These stores offer discounted prices to consumers, allowing them to purchase items at significantly reduced rates.
  5. Online Retail and E-commerce Platforms: Some retailers opt to sell unsold clothes and shoes through their online stores or on e-commerce platforms. Online sales provide a broader reach and may attract consumers who missed out on the items during the regular selling period.
  6. Returns and Exchanges: In certain cases, unsold items may be eligible for returns and exchanges. Retailers may offer customers the opportunity to exchange the unsold items for store credit or other merchandise, allowing for a smoother inventory management process.
  7. Private Sales and VIP Discounts: Retailers may offer exclusive sales or discounts to VIP customers or members of loyalty programs. This tactic can help clear out unsold inventory while rewarding loyal customers.
  8. Repurposing and Sample Sales: Fashion brands and designers may repurpose unsold clothes and shoes into prototypes or sample pieces for future collections. Sample sales offer customers the chance to purchase unique and limited-edition items at discounted prices.


What do retailers do with unsold inventory?

Retailers may use various strategies to manage unsold inventory, including offering discounts, donating to charities, recycling, selling through clearance outlets or online platforms, and repurposing items for future collections.

What does H&M do with unsold clothes?

H&M follows a sustainable approach by donating unsold clothes to various charitable organizations, recycling fabrics to create new products, and using some items as samples or prototypes for upcoming collections.

What happens to unsold fast fashion?

Unsold fast fashion items are often marked down and sold at discounted rates. Some brands may also donate or recycle these items, while others may end up in landfills or incinerated.

What percentage of clothes are unsold?

The exact percentage of unsold clothes varies based on factors such as the retail sector, season, and economic conditions. On average, it’s estimated that around 20-30% of clothes go unsold in the fashion industry.

What does The RealReal do with unsold items?

The RealReal, a luxury consignment company, typically returns unsold items to their consignors or donates them to charitable partners.

What are unsold goods at the end called?

Unsold goods at the end are often referred to as “overstock” or “excess inventory.”

What happens to wasted clothes?

Wasted clothes that are discarded end up in landfills or are incinerated, contributing to environmental pollution and waste.

How much does H&M pay for old clothes?

H&M offers a garment collecting initiative where customers can bring old clothes to their stores and receive a discount voucher for their next purchase, encouraging recycling and sustainability.

What does Burberry do with unsold inventory?

Burberry has faced criticism for burning unsold inventory in the past to protect its brand image and avoid discounted sales. However, they have now pledged to stop this practice and explore more sustainable options.

Why can’t we burn clothes?

Burning clothes release harmful pollutants and contribute to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It is an environmentally harmful practice and should be avoided.

What went wrong with H&M?

H&M faced criticism for unsustainable practices like overproduction, frequent collections, and lack of transparency. They have since taken steps to improve their sustainability efforts and reduce their environmental impact.

Which fashion company has gone into liquidation?

Several fashion companies have gone into liquidation due to financial difficulties, market changes, or mismanagement. The specific companies vary over time.

Who wastes the most clothes?

Fast fashion retailers and consumers in developed countries are often associated with significant clothing waste due to frequent purchasing and quick disposal of items.

Where does most fashion waste go?

Most fashion waste ends up in landfills or incinerators, causing environmental harm and contributing to the global waste problem.

How many clothes end up in landfills in the UK?

The exact number of clothes ending up in landfills in the UK is challenging to quantify. However, it is estimated that a significant amount of clothing waste is sent to landfills each year.

What do luxury brands do with unsold items?

Luxury brands often resort to destroying unsold items to protect their exclusivity and brand image. However, some brands are now taking more sustainable approaches, such as recycling or donating.

What do grocery stores do with unsold merchandise?

Grocery stores may donate unsold edible items to food banks or organizations fighting food waste. Non-edible items may be sold at discounted rates or donated to charity.

How much does The RealReal pay you for clothes?

The RealReal pays consignors a percentage of the final selling price of their items, usually around 50-60% for luxury items and a lower percentage for other brands.

Is unsold inventory a loss?

Unsold inventory can be considered a loss for retailers as it ties up capital and incurs storage costs. However, managing unsold inventory responsibly can minimize financial losses.

Is the collection of unsold products waiting to be sold?

Yes, the collection of unsold products waiting to be sold is often referred to as “inventory.”

Is unsold merchandise an asset?

Unsold merchandise is considered an asset on a retailer’s balance sheet until it is sold, written off, or disposed of.

How do I get unsold clothes from stores?

Getting unsold clothes from stores would generally not be possible for individuals, as retailers typically handle their inventory internally through various strategies.

Do clothes end up in landfills?

Yes, a significant amount of discarded clothing ends up in landfills, contributing to environmental issues.

Why do people throw away their clothes?

People may throw away clothes due to outgrowing them, fashion trends changing, wear and tear, or simply because they no longer want them.

Does Zara take old clothes?

Some Zara stores offer garment collection bins for customers to recycle their old clothes, promoting sustainability and responsible fashion.

Does H&M accept old bras?

H&M participates in garment collecting initiatives and may accept old bras and other clothing items for recycling in some stores.

How do you recycle worn-out clothes in the UK?

In the UK, clothing can be recycled through various methods, including donating to charity shops, using textile recycling banks, or participating in retailer recycling programs.

What clothes should not be donated?

Clothes that are heavily stained, torn, or in poor condition are not suitable for donation. Undergarments and swimwear are also generally not accepted for hygienic reasons.

Is it wrong to throw away clothes?

Throwing away clothes contributes to waste and environmental issues. Donating, recycling, or repurposing unwanted clothes are more sustainable options.

What do charities do with donated clothes?

Charities may sell donated clothes in their thrift stores to raise funds for their causes or distribute them directly to those in need.


Unsold clothes and shoes in retail stores are managed through various strategies, with a growing emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility. Markdowns, donations, recycling, and online sales are some of the ways retailers handle excess inventory. The retail industry continues to explore innovative and eco-friendly solutions to manage unsold items responsibly, reducing waste and making a positive impact on both consumers and the environment.