JC Penney Destroys Unsold Clothing On Orders From Ralph Lauren

H&M went through public shaming when they were caught shredding and throwing away brand-new merchandise instead of donating it to charity. Now a JC Penney store in Pennsylvania has reportedly done the same thing. Company representatives admitted to the Pittsburgh TV station that exposed the destruction of merchandise that this is official company practice, but only for items from the Penney’s-exclusive Ralph Lauren Living line.

Employees at one Pittsburgh-area store were disgusted, and contacted local news media.

“This is a brand new policy. Nothing like this before had been done at Penney’s,” said one employee, who wished to remain anonymous. “We’ve destroyed blankets. We’ve destroyed shirts, sweatshirts. I mean, you name it.”

It might be a new practice to these employees, but it is an official policy, to protect the Ralph Lauren brand. A JCP spokesman told WTAE:

“For a company like ours, in our business, your brand is your most valuable asset. The most important thing is to protect that brand. And with a few items in the American Living brand, if the brand name is actually on the product, our policy is to destroy it.”

Evidently they can’t cross out the name with a marker, or cut off the labels.

Team 4: Retailer Destroys Goods Rather Than Donate [WTAE] (Thanks, Bryan!)

Eddie Bauer Outlet Destroys Unsold Clothing, Throws It Away
H&M Store Cuts Up Unsold Clothing, Throws It Away


Edit Your Comment

  1. bradanomics says:

    You can’t be having poor people wearing Ralph Lauren now…that would just be unnatural and wrong. Poor people don’t deserve something as prestigious as Ralph Lauren.

    • quirkyrachel says:

      Yeah…my thoughts exactly. Isn’t that what they’re saying between the lines?

      “The most important thing is to protect that brand…”

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Brands don’t mean anything considering everything is made in china now.

        And youd think that their brand would do better with POSITIVE PR like donations, you think?

  2. bhr says:

    when I worked for Penneys years (and years) ago we had an outlet at another nearby Mall that got items like that. People wouldn’t pay $5 for a $40 shirt on clearance, but would pay $10 at the JC Penney outlet. Items we weren’t allowed to mark down as clearance (Starter, FUBU) were shipped out immediately. House brand usually made it to 20% of retail before we shipped them out.

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    They should have handed those blankets and sweatshirts out! I mean, it’s been so cold at night on the east coast these past few weeks.

  4. Mecharine says:

    What do they do to “destroy” these products? Do they just tear the labels off or something? If thats the case Im fine with that. But if they’re heaping them on a bonfire like some kind of fundmentalist book burners, then I have a major problem with that.

    • OSAM says:

      Usually taking a box cutter to them, right across the torso, front and back.

    • rpm773 says:

      But if they’re heaping them on a bonfire like some kind of fundmentalist book burners, then I have a major problem with that.

      So do I. They should be burning them in an organized manner, and not just dangerously heaping them onto a raging bonfire.

      And a fire in this heat? Outrageous!

  5. Southern says:

    I don’t understand why people think that stores should be required to “donate” unsold clothing to (charity/Goodwill/Salvation Army/whatever) in the first place. It’s the stores property, if they want to throw it away, burn it, turn it into rags, isn’t that their right?

    • benbell says:

      They are certainly within their rights to destroy the clothes. The issue is a moral one, Ralph Lauren would rather see their clothes destroyed than given to those in need. There are thousands of homeless people in Pittsburgh and around the US and world who could benefit from these clothes.

      Legally, they can do whatever they want with the clothes. But you need to look at it from a moral and ethical perspective, companies will always be subject to the court of public opinion and as a corporation they must realize this.

      • Southern says:

        Thanks all – I can understand how it would be good/bad for PR purposes (depending on if they donate them or just throw ’em away). It’s not going to affect my opinion of them either way though.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Can you provide evidence that there are homeless people who can’t get a sweatshirt/shirt/etc… if they have need/ask for one? Having used to attend school in the “Picts-burgh” area, I knew of at least two goodwill stores that were always packed with clothes, which meant that the people in need in that area had already had their fill of clothes. Hell, I picked up a nice blue dress at one as well as a pair of womens low heels in my size at one goodwill store out there. How many homeless guys need a low heel to fit a mens 11?

        • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

          Are all the products at the Goodwill stores free for the taking?

          • womynist says:

            No. AFAIK, Goodwill charges for their clothing. However, at least where I live, there are some non-profit social service agencies and religious organizations that will give out free clothes to the homeless and needy.

          • jessjj347 says:

            Also, I don’t see it as the stores “donating” clothes if Goodwill is making a profit.

            • pecan 3.14159265 says:

              Goodwill is a nonprofit agency – the money it makes from its stores go directly to funding programs to help the needy and also to keep the doors open.

      • jurupa says:

        Why do I need to look at it at a moral and ethic perspective? Why can’t I look at it from a business perspective? These clothes did not sell and are wasting both companies money. And by donating the clothes you are lowering the value of the brand. Not good for Ralph. Who cares about trying to keep businesses afloat.

        • chargernj says:

          No one said that you are required to look at it from a moral perspective, but just because you refuse to consider that aspect doesn’t mean it’s not immoral.

    • Randell says:

      Legally they are not required to do anything, BUT if you read the article, the goal of Penny’s should be to protect their brand. Destroying perfectly good items is not protecting their brand when the perception becomes they are being wasteful.

      • Daverson says:

        You do not understand what “protecting a brand” means.

        • AnthonyC says:

          Yes, he does.

          To Ralph Lauren, it means preserving an image as “exclsuive,” and donating the clothes would dilute that image.

          Randell is saying that he believes Ralph Lauren is trying to preserve the wrong image, that they do more harm to the brand by appearing wasteful than they benefit the brand by not having the less fortunate where donated expensive clothes.

      • jessjj347 says:

        I have a feeling that if they gave the clothes back to Ralph Lauren after not being sold, Ralph Lauren would just destroy the clothes.

        In fact, I bet that’s what most designers do. My understanding is that the department store can get a small percentage back from unsold clothing, so they send it back to the designer. Those designers probably all destroy the clothes.

        The only clothes I’ve ever noticed in Goodwill were Target brands.

    • StoicLion says:

      Southern –

      Don’t you understand? Emoting outrage and moral grand standing are most important.

      Now that sarcasm has been satisfied, let’s get back to reading how horrible it is for JCPenny to destroy their own product.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Yes, it is their right. But I also have the right to think they are a skeezy uncaring corporate giant if I want to. No one says they should be made to do it. I just think it would be the right thing. Penny’s has the right to do what they want with their stuff, and people have the right to like it or not.

    • The Marionette says:

      It is their right, plain and simple. Unless it’s illegal to do so there shouldn’t be people bitching about it honestly.

  6. PsiCop says:

    If Ralph Lauren’s wish is never to allow their precious “brand” to be diluted by having it donated to charity, why do they plan to do about customers who donate these items to charity? How does it make a difference if the store donates it, or customers do? And if there is no difference between the two, why would they care what the store does?

    I honestly do not understand this practice. Not at all. I don’t see how their precious “brand” is protected by it, and can see no measurable harm that comes to them because of it. If they’re worried that homeless people might end up wearing their stuff, I suppose they’re free to dislike that … but their dislike of that, doesn’t mean they’re harmed by it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Unless they have millions of customers who have nothing but Ralph Lauren clothing in their closets, ready to be donated, I don’t think it’s the same.

    • JollyJumjuck says:

      Perhaps when you purchase Ralph Lauren, you’re not buying clothing, you’re purchasing a LICENSE to wear that clothing. The license is non-transferable, so you’re not supposed to donate it to charity.

      • ARP says:

        Don’t give them any ideas. If they could get away with making clothing buyers signing a EULA, they would.

    • dreamfish says:

      It’s capitalism. If ‘protecting’ your brand means you create waste then so be it – after all, the waste cost is mostly externalised and the market is more important than the planet.

      Worth investigating if RL have an environmental policy and then challenging them on this issue.

    • El-Brucio says:

      As a rich person, I also burn all of my designer clothing to prevent the poor from wearing it. It’s part of the garment care instructions if you read the tag.

  7. ExtraCelestial says:

    If they were so concerned about protecting the Ralph Lauren brand they wouldn’t sell it at JCPenny’s.

    • Jeanyuhs says:

      Well said…

    • Anonymously says:

      In Pittsburgh, JcPenney and Macy`s are “mainstream upscale”….

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Penny’s and Macy’s in the same league? While Macy’s isn’t the be all end all, they are certainly not on the same level as Penny’s. Penny’s is more like Kohl’s or Sears–a step above Walmart or Target.

        • Anonymously says:

          I’d say Penney’s is closer to Macy’s than Sears. I mean, they do sell Coach and whatnot there.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      +1. You totally beat me to it.

  8. rpm773 says:

    The question, applicable to the H&M incident and this Ralph Lauren one, is how would the people who recently paid top dollar for this year’s line feel when seeing it draped across the shoulders of one the beneficiaries of such donations?

    This issue is about brand/image control. Ralph Lauren doesn’t have one ounce of care what the “I only shop at socially responsible stores and donate the rest to charity” set thinks of its brand control practices, unless it sees a greater long-term benefit to pleasing them than it’s current set of customers.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      If you pay “top dollar” instead of sale or clearance prices you are paying to wear those clothes or purchase those items when they are first released, before other people. What’s the difference between someone paying a clearance price for the item or someone buying the item at Goodwill? Both are extremely discounted and sometimes the clearance price at a store is lower than the price Goodwill charges for a new with tags item.

      • rpm773 says:

        I don’t disagree. But the article didn’t say if the RL clothing had gone through the various iterations of sales, clearance, transferral to discount outlet stores, etc.

        I’d think that if RL had a policy against giving the clothing to charity, it could very well have policies on how to mark down merchandise that doesn’t sell in its first go-around, for just reason you mentioned.

        • Brunette Bookworm says:

          Perhaps, but I’ve seen Ralph Lauren stuff at places like Marshall’s. Not just the Polo line, I bought a Ralph Lauren skirt from there before. Not the Black line of course, but if they sell items at Marshall’s from some lines why not send the unsold Penney’s merchandise to a store like that? At least then it isn’t being destroyed. It just seems like such a waste of resources to destroy items that are perfectly good.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I wouldn’t give two $hits if I saw poor people wearing name brands/styles that I was wearing now. I never even notice what brands other people wear. I suspect that plenty of others feel the same (or am I over estimating humanity here?)

      • rpm773 says:

        You may not, but do you buy a garment based on brand, and are you willing to pay more for a particular brand?

        I don’t mean this as a jab against anyone’s character, but I have hard time believing that there are many people out there who spend more on clothes to buy a particular brand but who would have no problem seeing large quantities of those garments being given to Goodwill. I think there’s a correlation there.

  9. pantheonoutcast says:

    It’s a bit of a logical fallacy to say, “But homeless people would benefit from these items!”

    There already exists a surplus of clothing that is readily available for people in need. Also, most of the time, the donated items are not given directly to people, but instead sold in thrift stores and the like – again, there is a surplus of donated items sitting around in bags in these stores. During high school, I volunteered for two years at a St. Vincent De Paul’s thrift store and the sheer volume of donated items was overwhelming. Trucks filled with donated items showed up all day long. At the end of the week, WE were throwing out clothing and other items because there was literally no room for everything. And St. Vincent’s is one of the smaller charities.

    Even if Ralph Lauren destroys thousands of articles of clothing and other items, it doesn’t change the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of other items available through various charities. It’s not as if RL’s decision to destroy the clothes is somehow depriving anyone of anything. Yeah, I suppose they could donate the unwanted merchandise, but it makes no difference – besides, the amount of money RL donates to charitable organizations is far greater than the amount of merchandise that is destroyed.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Must agree. I have seen many a clothes bin stuffed with clothes and had clothes piled out front. Also, people seem to think that the homeless need more clothes, which I think is false. The more clothes a homeless person has, the more that they must wash. From when i worked in a soup kitchen, I know many homeless stuff their clothes with things like newspaper and straw during the winter, as it is an effective insulator, and they can replace it all the time so it doesn’t get groddy.

      That said, what the homeless REALLY need are good gloves, socks, and shoes. Those areas are the hardest to insulate, and a nice pair of wool socks and some waterproof boots will go a long way to preventing frostbite and trench foot.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        You’re right. Gloves, socks, shoes, hats. A good coat will last you all winter and keep your body warm, but if you have problems with blood flow, your extremities are the first to get cold. Poorly made gloves are just as bad as having no gloves – if you don’t have any shelter, at least your gloves can be waterproof and water won’t seep into them. During the winter charity drives I always give gloves, hats, and socks.

    • thatotherguy says:

      I agree with you pantheonoutcast. It is incorrect to assume that someone will go without because the clothing was not donated. It’s also incorrect to think that it’s immoral or an ethical issue. I have no evidence, but I would assume that Ralf Lauren donates large amounts of money to charities and that money is much more beneficial to the homeless than some trendy clothing that probably has very little real use to a person living on the street (offers little protection from the elements). Hats, coats, and gloves are one thing but the money saved in destroying everything else (versus paying to prepare and deliver to a charity) is better served by being donated directly.

  10. D0rk says:

    And this is all because people find it “fashionable” to wear shirts and such with nothing but large logos of the company’s name or brand icon on them.

    • baquwards says:

      LOL, that is something that I will never understand. Do people really think that others are impressed or think they are rich because they are wearing a t-shirt with dolce & gabanna on it? We have a town nearby with a big outlet mall, ost of the residents there wear these types of shirts, it’s kinda funny.

      For me, I refuse to be an unpaid billboard for any company.

  11. dolemite says:

    Kind of makes sense as a brand I guess. If you saw high-end clothes at a thrift store, your opinion of the brand would probably suffer.

    • calico says:

      When I see high end clothes at a thrift store, my opinion of the brand does not suffer. Instead, I get excited… I can actually afford to wear something “fancy” that way.

    • kmw2 says:

      Nope. When I see high end brands at a thrift store, my first thought is “Hey, a brand with good enough quality to last past the time someone gets sick of it!” and my second thought is “*gank*”. I buy Seven For All Mankind jeans new, now, because I found a couple pairs in a thrift store for cheap, tried them out, and decided they were in fact worth the cost new.

  12. thepassenger says:

    The brand is called American Living. It’s designed and manufactured for Penney by Ralph Lauren. The Ralph Lauren name does not appear anywhere on the clothing or tags, but many of the garments have a large eagle logo that would be difficult to remove. This has kept me from buying stuff I otherwise liked, much as I won’t buy any Polo-brand clothing with a horse embroidered on it.

  13. arachne says:

    I don’t think the destruction has anything to do with the homeless/poor. I think it has a lot to do with online sellers who might troll through the thrift stores and resell the items in pretty much direct competition with J C Penney. Not to mention the fact that a lot of thrift stores sell their better items online. Goodwill has its own auction site.

    A local seller of cheap shoes used to destroy their unsold stock for the same reason. I hope J. C. Penney at least recycles.

  14. justinph says:

    This is standard practice. I have a relative that runs a waste management company, and one of their client happens to be a JC Penny’s. I have heard about the huge amount of clothing that gets cut up just so that it cannot be re-used in any way: Jeans that get their legs slashed, shirts that get holes cut in the chest, etc. The sad part is it makes it very hard to even recycle the clothing: the only thing it’s really good for is to be made into rags or used in paper.

  15. Ben_Q2 says:

    Maybe I am missing something. If you own it don’t you get to do with it what you wish?

    • consumerfan says:

      Legally? Yes. Ethically, you shouldn’t destroy an item that could be resold, reused, recycled.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Yeah, that’s not what the word “ethically” means. There is no socially accepted principal of right and wrong when it comes to a private owner choosing to dispose of his own belongings in the trash (assuming those belongings aren’t anthrax spores, radioactive waste, monkey fetuses or dirty hypodermic needles).

  16. wingnut says:

    Just another case where emotions get out of hand and the people involved cannot step outside of their box long enough to see the other side of the story. You have a right to be appalled or disgusted by this practice just as much as others have the right to be indifferent to the policy. I for one couldn’t give two shit’s what a store does with its unused merchandise. So long as they depose of it in a clean, environmentally sound fashion and they don’t break any laws in the process what is the harm?

    Ralph Lauren probably wants to avoid their unsold merchandise from getting out and fraudsters removing emblems and such and putting them on fake articles of clothing.

  17. Shonky McShonk says:

    We don’t want some toothless wino holding hostages or pushing his cart while wrapped in our brand either.

    Way to go RL.

    Love Tommy H and Sean J.

  18. legolex says:

    Heeeey that’s my mall!

    I had no idea that was going on, good to know.

  19. ellemdee says:

    I worked at Big Lots in college & they required us to destroy everything before we threw it out. We had to smash dishes, destroy electronics, break toys, cut up clothes, etc. We all thought it was a shame, but the word was that the store somehow got a better tax break writing it off than if they donated it. Or perhaps they were just concerned with protecting the prestigious “Big Lots” brand.

  20. BenjaminCachimbear says:

    Hell, when I was fresh out of High School, I got my very first job at Sears… My first day on the job, and my first rage inducing absolutely ridiculous assigned task…. To compact 3 Brand New computers, still in unopened boxes; because they had set in the warehouse too long(Dropped to 0.00 in the inventory system). I was like “Why don’t we donate these to goodwill or something!” Their response: “That’s against company policy.” REALLY!!!

  21. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I don’t shop at Penny’s, but if I did, I wouldn’t anymore. Protecting a brand over helping people in need? That is pretty scuzzy. Ahhhh. Corporate America.

  22. Petaluma says:

    Before everyone gets in an uproar over JC Lauren/Polo destroying there products.
    Please be aware that the organizations such as goodwill and salvation army destroy extra clothing on a daily basis..

    There is only so much clothing that can be displayed or offered for purchase,depending upon the size of the store. Everything past that stock level gets sent to the baler. It is saved up until there is a semi trucks worth(100 + bails at 500-600 lbs each). They sell this extra clothes as bulk for everything from you army issue blankets to made into auto insulation.

    Even though this is reduce recycle and reuse-it always felt weird to do it.

    Oh and most SA and GW will not give the local homeless a coat for the asking; They usually have to end up asking at a church or local community center/shelter.
    Remember despite what they say-they are a publicly traded company-at least

    If you really want to keep that homeless guy or gall you are concerned about warm, then I suggest giving to your local Fire dept (winter coat drives) as they know where and how many homeless are in the area.

    Facts before outrage

  23. supershopper says:

    the items could have been shipped back to RL for THEM to destroy or sell at an outlet, but this just makes JCP look bad. RL could just make a limited number of items, therefore, reducing the amount of unsold items… It doesn’t save RL’s brand anyway, because I see plenty of their merchandise at the thrift stores, some of it brand new with tags still on them!…JCP lets people buy from their outlet stores in bulk, then those people resell the merchandise on eBay…no limits whatsoever….I’m sure RL doesn’t want their stuff selling dirt cheap on eBay either…this is probably why RL makes them destroy the items too….RL’s stock just keeps rising in price too…maybe more people need to read this article.

  24. jedifarfy says:

    Ralph Lauren probably has a contract with JC Penney to sell their clothing in the stores. If RL tells them “don’t send our stuff to outlets”, what else can they do? The stores receive credit for unsold merchandise and then are told to destroy the items. Is there a shortage of clothing donations? Doubtful. This happens with books and all sorts of other products.

  25. Steele says:

    This is nothing new. Office Max does this all the time. I’ve seen them destroy laptops, computers, printers, monitors, iPods, CDs, pens, paper, staplers, hole punches, furniture, nearly everything in their inventory. There is nothing wrong with the items, they are simply “discontinued” items. This is not an “isolated event” with OfficeMax, as it is their corporate policy to “destroy” the items and then pitch them. In other words, OfficeMax’s policy is, “That which we can not sell, do not discount further, do not donate, but destroy it.”

  26. Baka-no-Kami says:

    One of my first jobs was working on the loading dock at a Macy’s department store. One day the security team asked me to help them out disposing of unsold clothes. This basically involved slicing it with a razor to make it unwearable and tossing it in the dumpster.

    I asked why we didn’t donate the clothes to charity instead and was told they used to but had to stop after massive amounts of return fraud. At the time the store had a fairly liberal return policy and apparently lots of the donated clothes were being brought back in for store credit. So while the store was willing to donate clothes that were a loss anyway they weren’t willing to have it hurt profits which isn’t something I can blame them for.

    So in my stores case, and I suspect in most others too, it was a matter of a few bad eggs spoiling it for the needy would could have benefited. I didn’t think at the time to ask if there was a way to render the clothes unreturnable, but still donateable by cutting off the tags or something.

  27. Whuffo says:

    OK, guys – I know what’s going on here. Many companies do the same thing – destroy unsold merchandise. Why? For the tax benefits. They can write this stuff off as a loss and get a nice tax break – but only if it’s a total loss.

    If they removed tags, donated it, whatever – that would show that the product still had some value – so they destroy it instead. If you want to see some changes here, don’t bother with the companies doing this, talk to your congresscritter about the way the tax code encourages the destruction of useful goods.

  28. jukaye says:

    well i would stop buying expensive clothing if hobos are wearing the same thing. make sense to protect a brand’s image

  29. khooray says:

    A LOT of places do this and have for years. I used to go to school by a Drug Emporium store and their dumpsters were FULL of everything…not opened, most of it still in perfect condition. They got holiday stuff like wrapping paper, Ziggy dolls,etc. and would just throw them away if they didn’t sell. They took a razor and swiped it down the wrapping paper so it would be ‘ruined’.
    I dumpster dove all the time there and I scored on so much good stuff!
    Everyone made fun of me for dumpster diving until they saw the massive amounts of stuff I was getting and giving away, then they wanted in on it too.