The U.K. scheme that is salvaging canceled Bangladesh clothing orders for resale is turning its attention to a younger clientele.
Lost Stock, which has been repackaging some $24 million worth of garments jettisoned by Western brands and retailers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, announced Tuesday a new version of its “mystery box,” this time for children.
Cally Russell, CEO of online clothing retailer platform Mallzee—which touts itself as the “original Tinder of fashion”—launched the project in May after reading reports about the millions of Bangladeshi garment workers who face impending destitution and starvation after frantic brands rushed to nix in-progress and finished orders in the early days of the coronavirus crisis. To date, more than $3.1 billion in contracts—the equivalent of 982 million pieces—has vaporized through force majeure loopholes, according to the Bangladesh Garment Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BGMEA).
As with the original Lost Stock, each Lost Stock for Kids grab bag will support a family in Bangladesh for a week through the company’s partnership with the nonprofit Sajida Foundation. Every box, which can be tailored to boys and girls aged 4 to 14, will include at least five items originally meant for high-street retailers. So far, Lost Stock has sold nearly 100,000 boxes for adults in the past five weeks. With the launch of Lost Stock for Kids, Russell says he hopes to be able to benefit another 100,000 families next month.
“We know that the COVID-19 crisis is deepening amongst garment worker communities in Bangladesh and we hope that by launching Lost Stock for kids we can help many more families and avoid both a humanitarian crisis and an environmental one,” he told Insider.co.uk. “Lost Stock allows consumers to get a great deal whilst at the same time helping a family survive this awful tragedy.”
The pandemic has ravaged Bangladesh’s $30 billion garment industry, the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, in only a matter of months. The BGMEA has prophesied $5 billion in “irrecoverable losses” by the end of the fiscal year. Location-based lockdowns in the country’s coronavirus hot spots, such as the recently “red-zoned” city of Chattogram, threaten to further stymie operations even as most factories are already functioning at half capacity due to sluggish demand.
COVID-19-induced production freezes are expected to worsen as the nation scrambles to fight the spread of infection. The outlook is bleak: On Tuesday, Bangladesh recorded 64 deaths, the highest number of fatalities in a 24-hour period, according to the health ministry. Since the outbreak began, the country of 161 million has registered 142,000 positive cases and 1,783 deaths.
But even those who are healthy are struggling for survival.
“Cancelled orders have affected over 1,000 factories and the lives of 2.27 million workers and their families,” Muhymin Chowdhury, head of fundraising for Sajida, told Insider.co.uk, pointing to a recent survey that showed that 47 percent of these workers have zero income. “We are very pleased to partner with Lost Stock whose approach helps redress the unfortunate failures of global brands to practice responsible sourcing. Every Lost Stock box sold will provide a food and hygiene package to support a family for a week.”
Earlier this month, Lost Stock said it is shifting from boxes to bags, which are easier to transport and can be made from a 100 percent compostable material. “This is much better for the environment, and also a lot more cost-effective, which is important to us as we are trying to ensure that we support as many workers as possible with each order,” the company wrote on its website.