An employee arranges a display of women's handbags in the Burberry Group in Moscow, Russia. Picture: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg.
An employee arranges a display of women's handbags in the Burberry Group in Moscow, Russia. Picture: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg.

Burberry burns millions in unsold products

LUXURY British fashion house Burberry destroyed tens of millions of dollars worth of its fashion and cosmetic products over the past year to protect its brand.

The company burned unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6 million (AU$50.5 million), according to its annual report, in a practice now common across the industry to guard against counterfeiting.

Retailers describe it as a measure to protect intellectual property and prevent products being stolen or sold at discounted prices.

"Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce," the company said in a statement.

"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."

The traditional Burberry plaid on display at a Burberry store in Milan, Italy. Picture: Bloomberg News.
The traditional Burberry plaid on display at a Burberry store in Milan, Italy. Picture: Bloomberg News.

Among the products destroyed were £10.4 million (AU$18.4 million) worth of beauty items, which Burberry said was a one-off related to a licence it agreed with beauty company Coty last year.

The firm - which announced a slight rise in annual profits in May to £294 million (AU$520 million) - has said it takes its environmental obligations seriously and harnesses the energy from burning the items.

It also pointed to partnerships with organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that work to reduce waste in the industry.

But news of its destruction policy drew flak in Britain.

Politician Tim Farron, environment spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrat party, said: "It is outrageous that Burberry think setting fire to their unsold stock is an acceptable solution."

Noting recycling was "far better for the environment", he added: "As a leading British fashion brand they should be leading the way in sustainable fashion."


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