MONTREAL — Children’s clothing chain Carter’s, best known for its brand OshKosh B’gosh, is taking heat on social media after a Toronto resident found a store’s unsold clothes, destroyed and thrown in the garbage.
Natasha McKenna posted pictures to Facebook on Tuesday of unsold goods, mostly clothes, in five garbage bags in a public trash bin near a Carter’s OshKosh location at the city’s Dufferin Mall.
“I thought, ‘What the heck? This isn’t garbage,’” McKenna told HuffPost Canada.
“As someone who worked retail, I have a lot of sympathy for people who get low wages and ... have to destroy good clothes that could have clothed people in (their) neighbourhood,” she said.
In her Facebook post, McKenna said the clothes “weren’t just thrown out, they were destroyed so they couldn’t be used by anyone.” She described “sliced shoes, smashed picture frames, cut-up onesies and ripped-up snow pants and gloves.”
McKenna said that after her Facebook post went viral, she was contacted by an individual who identified themselves as a Carter’s employee, saying that staff “are instructed to cut up items that are returned damaged or (are) somehow damaged on the floor.”
A Carter’s spokesperson told HuffPost Canada that the clothes in question “were, unfortunately, unusable and unable to be donated.”
The company’s policy “is to donate unsold products to local and national charity partners. It’s a partnership we are honored to support – donating tens of millions of dollars’ worth of unsold product over the last five years,” the spokesperson added.
It appears the company may be taking the backlash seriously. Brands for Canada — a charity that distributes new, unsold clothes from retail donors — says it has been in touch with Carter’s representatives since the issue arose, and the company has agreed to distribute their unsold clothes through them.
“Once a consumer finds out the company they’re buying from is dumping brand new clothes, they’re not happy. It’s just wrong on so many levels,” Brands for Canada executive director Helen Harakas said in an interview.
On its website for U.S. customers, Carter’s says it has a program to “ensure no product that could be used by a child in need is ever discarded.… Excess inventory is donated nationally and internationally through our partner organization K.I.D.S. Fashion Delivers.”
K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers, which was renamed Delivering Good in 2017, is a charity that collects unsold goods for donation in developing countries.
A growing issue
The incident is the latest flashpoint in a growing policy debate about waste created by retailers. Businesses’ disposal practices have come under the microscope in recent years, with consumer groups working to raise awareness about waste in food and fashion retail, among other sectors.
France’s government tabled legislation last year to outlaw the destruction of unsold consumer goods. Closer to home, the City of Montreal is moving toward a ban on dumping unsold food and clothes.
Brands for Canada’s Harakas believes that, eventually, this sort of legislation will become common.
“That’s going to be the wave of the future,” she said.
This story has been updated from its original version, to include comment from Carter’s.