Lost Stock – the Company Supporting Fashion Workers in Bangladesh During the Coronavirus

At A Glance – Buy a Box, Support a Worker For a Week

The fashion industry is ubiquitous with global supply chains, with a reliance on outsourcing to regions in South East Asia, Eastern Europe, India and Bangladesh in order to maximise profits across the value chain.

The coronavirus has upturned the cogs of garment production, demand from citizens has seismically dropped, buyers and retailers have no capital to purchase textiles or stock and has brought manufacturing at a grinding halt.

As a consequence, vulnerable garment workers embroiled deep in the network of global fashion production have been made redundant. The future of this labour force has been compromised, traditionally linked with inhumane wages, unaudited social conditions and now the health threat of COVID19 – what can be done?

Cue Lost Stock, a company on a mission to solve one of the fashion industry’s current challenges. It provides customers with a fashion box that simultaneously supports a worker and their family for a week and mitigates wastage of unsold stock from factories of high street retailers.

Let us delve deeper.

Credit: Lost Stock

In Focus – Solving Fashion’s Current Challenges

What’s Happening in Bangladesh?

For those unfamiliar with the contemporary situation in Bangladesh, here is more information to contextualise.

Bangladesh has one of the highest concentrations of garment workers in the world, this stands at over 4 million marginalised individuals. Thus, the grinding break of supply chains has had severe implications for their livelihoods.

According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and a research report by Penn State University’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights (CGWR):

By the 7th April, approximately 950 million garments (worth $3 billion), had been cancelled

Despite contractual obligations, over 50% of Bangladesh suppliers have had the bulk of their in-process/completed production cancelled

72% of buyers refused to pay for raw materials which had already been purchased by suppliers. 

More than 91% of buyers refused to pay for cut-make-trim costs. 

As a direct result of order cancellations/no payment, 58% of the 316 factories surveyed reported having to shut down most/all of their operations.

Over 1 million workers have been fired/suspended from work. 98.1% of buyers refused to contribute to the cost of paying the partial wages to furlough workers (required by law).

72% of the workers had to be sent home without pay and over 80% without severance pay. 

At the date of publication of this article, clashes have now erupted between garment workers and police over wages and labour forces that live on the bread line, desperate for work are left with little or no choice but to return despite the lingering threat of contagion from the virus.

A list of those who have now paid for orders and those still outstanding is displayed below:

Credit: Clean Clothes Campaign

Lost Stock  – How It Works

So how are the team at Lost Stock alleviating the current challenges facing garment workers? Buy a box for £35 that contains three miscellaneous items and support a worker for a week – it really is that simple.

Lost Stock, is a project run through Mallzee, an app -based service described as ‘Tinder for Fashion’ founded by Cally Russell in 2013. This free shopping app works with over 180 high street brands and retailers using data to create personalised fashion choices for over 1.5 million customers. Using insights, it guides fashion companies on which products prove most popular which helps solve the colossal problem of wasted inventory. Surplus stock frequently occurs with a made to stock supply chain strategy popular amongst mass market retailers and is illustrated by mounting piles of clothes you often see during store sales.

To deliver the Lost Stock project, the team have partnered with the Sajida Foundation which is working across 26 districts of Bangladesh to achieve their mission of ‘health, happiness and dignity for all’. A percentage of each box is contributes to making a positive impact and will feed an individual and their family for one week. In response to COVID-19 the Sajida Foundation have aided over 50,000 households with food and hygiene packages, distributed over 18,000 sets of PPE and installed over 475 portable hand washing devices throughout the country.

Credit: Lost Stock

Muhymin Chowdhury, the Head of Challenge Fund & Fundraising for SAJIDA, said, “Cancelled orders have affected over 1000 factories and the lives of 2.27 million workers and their families. A recent study found that 47% of these workers now have no income – we are working to deliver them basic necessities”

In collaboration, Lost Stock and the Sajida Foundation have the goal to support 10,000 workers in the coming weeks and 50,000 by the end of the year – an achievable target given the mounting attention the project has recieved in its initial week of launch!

What’s In The Box?

Some may say, it’s Christmas come early for anyone receiving a Lost Stock box. For £35 plus postage, customers will receive at least three items of clothing from high street names like Topshop or Gap.

You will be asked a series of questions which will help customise and dictate the contents of your box to match your style. Enquiries relate to how you desire your clothes to fit, favourite colour schemes, affinity to prints and your preferences regarding trend led or more timeless pieces.

Lost Stock then use algorithms to calculate your preferences for the perfect wardrobe curation which will all be items from Spring/Summer 2020 collections. Receiving your box will be a big reveal as there are no sneak peaks before Mr Postman drops that package on your door step!

At £35, most items are already discounted from 50% of retail price – a bargain but also remembering the substantial donation you are sending to support those in need in Bangladesh. For those looking to treat a friend or family, gift cards are available.

My regular readers know I hugely endorse organisational transparency. Lost Stock have disclosed their pricing model which deconstructs the costing for each box. The below infographic summarises.

Credit: Lost Stock

A note on returns – not that you would need to but Lost Stock only accept all items of the box back and the customer must pay for return shipping, you would also not receive the donation returned to you. Instead – in the rare instance the contents of your box is not quite right, they encourage swapping or sharing with loved ones. I suggest using platforms such as Nu Wardrobe when it is safe to do so again!

They are currently shipping to the UK and the US. However, they are looking at expanding this to other regions across the world so keep your eyes peeled!

In Conversation with Cally Russell, founder of Lost Stock

Neil Hanna Photography http://www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk 07702 246823

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with founder Cally to see how Lost Stock is going following its initial launch!

With an academic background in Politics and International Relations, Cally founded Malzee and is dedicated to solving complex challenges. We discussed the rate of growth Lost Stock has experienced in the first few days, for instance Thursday (21st May) sales had increased 82% on the day prior with visits to the website from all over the globe including Canada and Australia.

Cally notes that “Covid-19 is a health and economic crisis in the UK but it’s going to be a humanitarian crisis in countries like Bangladesh unless support is provided. With the Lost Stock approach consumers get a great deal and are also helping at the same time.”

New norms of remote working during the pandemic have not hindered the team’s capacity to liaise with multiple stakeholders whether that’s customers, fashion brands or directly with the factories.

An important takeaway I took from our conversation was how Cally believes the pandemic will shift us from a push economy to a pull economy. Instead of companies dictating to citizens what they should be buying, it will be a transactional open dialogue where companies collaborate with customers to co-create the item they will truly want. In my eyes, this transition would promote more conservative sustainable shopping habits as citizens will invest more on fewer purchases but will also reduce surplus wastage throughout supply chains.

Final Thoughts – Connecting Customers to Solve Complex Fashion Challenges

For all of its challenges, coronavirus has given way to innovative projects such as Lost Stock that catalyse positive social impact for the most vulnerable.

Their smart use of data insights and personalisation to create fashion boxes that mitigate unsold inventory and feed Bangladeshi families is ingenious. I will look forward to the community of Lost Stock growing and witnessing the shared stories of box buyers and garment workers alike.

The story of Lost Stock proves that companies can leverage their existing technologies and operations to use fashion as a force for good.

You can learn more about Lost Stock and how to purchase your box here.

If you are interested in this topic, head to Apparel for more on fashion supply chains and labour behind the label.  

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