This week, New York graduate student Cynthia Magnus found bags of discarded unworn H&M garments outside the Herald Square store. The garments were slashed, presumably to avoid resale. First there was the issue of waste and then, most importantly, denying the needy. And then there was the poignant New York Times piece that will send any communications professional into a crisis dizzy:
It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly.
In an updated version of the story, late Wednesday the Times reported a response by an H&M spokesperson:
It will not happen again,” said Nicole Christie, a spokeswoman for H & M in New York. “We are committed 100 percent to make sure this practice is not happening anywhere else, as it is not our standard practice.”
Ms. Christie said it was H & M's policy to donate unworn clothing to charitable groups. She said that she did not know why the store on 34th Street was slashing the clothes, and that the company was checking to make sure that none of its other stores were doing so.
However, the store was slow in its response to the Times' inquiries. In Tuesday's story, it reported:
This week, a manager in the H & M store on 34th Street said inquiries about its disposal practices had to be made to its United States headquarters. However, various officials did not respond to 10 inquiries made Tuesday by phone and e-mail.
Magnus also found a bag of discarded, damaged Wal-Mart garments in the same area, but the retailer, as expected, provided the Times with a response for the first report.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said the company normally donates all its unworn goods to charities, and would have to investigate why the items found on 35th Street were
It's a sticky situation for any retailer, and it begs the question, how, if at all, can other retailers use the charity opportunity to their, and others', advantage.