According to The Asahi Shimbun, a mountain of corrugated boxes filled with knitwear, hoodies, skirts and other garments from popular brands among leading retailing websites is stored at a warehouse of Osaka-based inventory clearance agent Shoichi.
The unused clothing items that would otherwise be thrown away are part of a huge volume of the unsold inventory in Japan that is produced as more fashion products are supplied to the market at much cheaper prices.
According to Shoichi officials, 300,000 to 400,000 garments are usually kept at the storehouse.
“Those goods came here for various reasons, such as being unsold and slightly frayed,” said Shoichi Yamamoto, president of Shoichi. “Some of them have never hit the store shelves.”
Shoichi purchases 5 million items at around 10 percent of their original prices from 600 apparel firms, manufacturing plant operators and other businesses a year. After removing their tags so consumers cannot identify the brands, the garments are sold on Shoichi’s website, event venues and elsewhere.
Although Shoichi makes promotional efforts such as showing photos taken to make the fashion goods appear to be more appealing, the leftovers can be sold at only 17 to 18 percent of their original prices.
However only very lucky garments can arrive in resale agents like Shoichi. Most of the unsold clothing items are simply disposed of without ever being worn.
Hundreds of millions of new fashion items are disposed of annually without being used in Japan, leading to the country’s rampant exploitation of foreign workers.
Behind the trend is a recent tendency among apparel companies to follow suit and provide a vast amount of products at unreasonably low prices, which threatens the lives of those working in the sewing industry.
An industrial waste processing company in Tokyo was recently asked to discard the dead inventory of a famous brand that operates a retail shop in the capital’s posh Ginza district.
“We accepted three truckloads of clothes, footwear, bags and other items,” said a company official. “We were told to pulverize and incinerate all of them.”
The firm was also asked to show photos of the disposal processes so it could be confirmed that all the unsold goods were properly processed.
“If the products are resold through illegal channels, it could damage their brand image,” said the official. “If they are stored at warehouses, they are regarded as assets and subject to being taxed. So they should be incinerated.”
Although there are no statistics on how many new garments are left unsold and discarded annually in Japan, the amount of those articles can be estimated by deducting the number of purchased garments from the total market supply.
The difference between supply and demand is more than 1 billion. As some of the leftovers are resold, garments that are discarded by various means, such as being incinerated as well as pulverized and mixed with plastic for use as fuel, are estimated to total 1 billion a year.
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