Project developers: Management / Purchasing /Product development
Partners: Marketing / Communications / Shops

Finding solutions to reduce and recycle my unsold items

The product categories concerned

Context and description

Clothing textiles, household linen and footwear are qualified as unsold items when they have not been sold within the context of the brand's commercial business.

These products are the result of a succession of resource extraction, transport and transformation/production stages, all of which provoke environmental impacts. Since 2019 the law against wastage prohibits the destruction of unsold textile and footwear items and provides for the increased liability of companies with respect to product life span and end-of-life management over years to come.

This paradigm shift is forcing marketers to work both upstream, in order to find sustainable solutions to reduce the quantity of unsold items and downstream, in order to recycle and extend product life cycles.



Complexity of implementation


Estimated economic gain


Human means

1 year
2 seasons

Implementation timeframes

Try it! : Follow the sheet step by step and have a go!
Step of
  • Rethink the structuring of textile collections, aiming for "less but better": increase the share of timeless products which will remain in place over several seasons, invest in qualitative and sustainable products to establish brand reputation and consequently ensure a recurrence of sales in the long-term.

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  • Create products which are as close as possible to expectations whilst enhancing customer relations: consult the market regarding desired product typologies and functionalities, propose limited and co-created collections to test new lines, take account of the opinions of customers to improve future collections.

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  • Minimise stocks upstream by changing sales practices (for example: pre-orders or pre-sales among a limited list of customers) and purchase practices (tests on small quantities, purchase materials / accessories stock and constitution of quick redistribution outlets in close sourcing).

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  • Promote the product as much as possible throughout its life duration : attractive photos with cloths modelled by different body shapes, detailed product descriptions, customer comments highlighted and experience sharing encouraged within the community, accompaniment at the level of sales ("chat" on eshop, responsive customer service etc.).

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  • If you need to sell products at sale prices, be careful not to harm their image. Rather than massive promotions, create qualitative and "privileged" preview sales for your most loyal customers. During the sales, continue to positively communicate on these products. After the sales, you can create a "collection archives" category which is more gratifying than a destocking or "budget price" area.

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  • If you still have stocks remaining after the sales, typical practice is to have recourse to discounters. Choose retailers which correspond to your brand image. Some have highly qualitative approaches, going so far as to reshoot products to give them a second lease of life, which is beneficial for sales and your brand image.

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  • Donations can be a good solution to use up stocks, insofar as it is financially viable (tax reduction) whilst providing a positive and measurable societal impact. Prefer partners which can make targeted product donations in response to real needs and in keeping with your company DNA. As a last resort, you can give clothes for recycling to transform them into new materials or products, ensuring they get a second lease of life !

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  • For exceptional unsold items (ceremonial clothing for example), the creation of a rental service can constitute an opportunity on a market which is progressively being developed. The life duration of your products will consequently be extended thanks to the support of particular logistics or partners specialised in clothing rental.

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  • The significant trend towards second-hand items can also incite you to create a space dedicated to this type of offer in shops or on your e-shop. This can constitute an opportunity to reintegrate your unsold items and consequently propose products which have never been worn at attractive prices.

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  • If you want to go one step further, you can consider having recourse to upcycling, a practice which consists in customising or even transforming an existing product. With a bit of imagination or creative partners you can organise personalisation workshops in shops, or even transform a larger quantity of products in partnership with manufacturing sites or associations (a pair of jeans can become a skirt, a shirt, a dress etc.)

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Key indicators

Fall in markdown rate

Proportion of unsold items and residual stocks

- Proportion of unsold items recycled

Watch point

The regulatory framework for unsold items is increasingly restrictive.

Beyond objectives to increase turnover and Marge In, it is necessary to challenge other performance indicators such as Marge Out (after sales and disposal of stocks) and EBITDA.

Be careful when valuing product donations: donation must not be used to dissimulate bad stock management and traceability must apply to all products donated for the associations you work with.

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What is Eco design?

Eco design is a platform whose purpose is to provide information and assist textile and footwear brands to rise to the eco-design challenge. This platform is a Refashion initiative (formerly Eco TLC), a public authority-approved eco-organisation for the CHF industry (Clothing, Household linen and Footwear).

Our vision: a 100% circular textile and footwear industry.