H&M: Recycle old clothes, get a discount

The low-cost retailer has a novel way to deal with rising cotton prices. Encourage customers to bring in unwanted garments.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 20, 2013 12:47PM

An H&M store in New York, on May 31, 2013 (© Mark Lennihan/AP)Swedish clothing company H&M (HMRZF) has a new plan to help burnish its image while also buffering its operations from the rising cost of cotton: Give customers a discount to recycle old clothing. 


H&M will roll out the program to all of its 2,900 locations by the end of 2013, after starting it in February, Bloomberg reports. Right now, H&M is quoting its discount in British pounds, offering a £5 (or $7.74) discount on a £30 (or $46.53) purchase for customers who hand over a bag of old clothing.


An H&M representative didn't immediately return a request for comment on its U.S. discount plans. The low-cost apparel retailer says that it'll accept clothing from any manufacturer, but it's limiting hand-ins to two shopping bags of clothing per customer per day.


"Any piece of clothing, of any brand, and in any condition is welcome," the retailer says. 


The effort may put H&M at the forefront of textile recycling, which has lagged in comparison with other household products such as glass and aluminum, Sustainable Brands notes. 


The effort comes as H&M is struggling with the rising cost of cotton, as well as the ugly brush of exploitation that the garment industry suffered with the Bangladesh factory collapse in April. 


"This is a good thing for getting people into their stores," Bryan Roberts, an analyst with Kantar Retail, told Bloomberg. "It's often the case that green initiatives go hand-in-hand with commercial objectives."


Cotton prices have jumped in recent months and are likely to remain high, given lower expected U.S. production as states such as Kansas, Texas and Nebraska battle drought conditions. 


While H&M doesn't disclose its spending on cotton, the rising cost of raw materials has eaten into its margins, Bloomberg notes. H&M sustainability manager Henrik Lampa said: "We don’t want clothes to become waste, we want them to become a resource instead."


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 


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