John Lewis to buy back used clothing

Retailer will pay customers for unwanted items, including socks and underwear

John Lewis
(Image credit: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)

Department store John Lewis is to buy back worn-out clothing in an attempt to cut down on waste.

The high street retailer is trialling a programme which would pay customers to return unwanted items - including used socks and underwear - purchased in its stores or online.

Around 100 customers are currently taking part in the pilot, which uses an app developed in conjunction with social enterprise Stuffstr to “instantly value items… based on previous customer purchases over a five-year period,” fashion industry website Drapers reports.

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“Once a threshold of £50 is reached a courier will be arranged to collect the items in less than three hours.”

Clothes obtained through the buy-back scheme would be “resold - though not in John Lewis stores - mended for resale or recycled into new products”, The Guardian reports. Customers “will be paid for each item regardless of its condition”.

“The trial has so far seen the retailer pay £4 for a pair of broken cashmere gloves bought in 2015, £8 for a pencil skirt bought in 2014, and £11 for a top bought in 2016,” says Retail Gazette.

If the pilot is successful and the initiative is rolled out on a larger scale, the retailer plans to offer app users the opportunity to donate their profit to charity.

John Lewis’s sustainability manager, Martyn White, said the buy-back scheme was aimed at reducing the 300,000 tonnes of used clothing which ends up in UK landfills every year.

“We already take back used sofas, beds and large electrical items and either donate them to charity or reuse and recycle parts, and want to offer a service for fashion products,” he said.

“It’s estimated that the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes, but around 30% of that clothing has not been worn for at least a year, most commonly because it no longer fits.”

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