What clothing firms should do with returned and damaged stock this winter

Clothing retailers and manufacturers should reconsider how they deal with seconds and returned stock this winter and donate it to the homeless and those in need, according to the founder of a business specialising in selling seconds and returned clothing.

Simon Payne set up Sole Responsibility in 2014.

Simon Payne, founder of Halifax-based Sole Responsibility, says this winter the business has noticed an increase in demand for support as the social and economic impact of the pandemic takes its toll.

Sole Responsibility worked with multiple charities across Yorkshire to donate boots to homeless and people living in poverty in October with more than £25,000 worth of stock distributed to people in need in Yorkshire and the North West.

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Mr Payne is also donating more than 600 winter coats to homeless people in the North of England.

Simon Payne, founder of Sole Responsibility, is giving away 600 winter jackets.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “With Covid-19, the prevalence of homelessness is going up by quite a lot.

“People are losing their jobs. It’s getting to a point where people may only be one or two pay packets away from being in severe trouble.

“There are online retailers that have done really well. It’s about saying we’ve got this kind of stock, let’s see what we can do with it.”

Mr Payne fears that the full economic impact of the outbreak is yet to be felt.

Simon Payne is Halifax born and bred.

He added: “Unfortunately, to a certain degree the worst will be to come next year, when a lot of the jobs don’t exist.

“Those who are potentially on the edge already might be tipping over to the edge.”

Sole Responsibility was established around 2014 and employs 10 staff.

The business works with retailers and brands and looks to buy their seconds, damaged and shop spoilt stock with a view to preventing it going for incineration.

Waste is a “massive” issue in the fashion industry, Mr Payne says. The prevalence of social media platforms such as Instagram and the subsequent desire for perfection is leading to a lot of clothing and footwear going to landfill or facing incineration.

He said: “It’s not sustainable. It’s a linear economy where people just buy it, use it and destroy it. Going forward in the next five, ten years, a linear economy just won’t work.

“The costs of incinerating things are so high anyway. You have this stock here, what can we do with it?”

Mr Payne hopes that by raising awareness of Sole Responsibility and what it can do in the industry will head off a lot of clothing going to waste.

He said: “I hope people will work with us and I hope people will see that we’re trying to do a good thing. We are trying to change perceptions and we’re trying to work with the industry.

“I hope the wider industry will accept what we are doing. We’re trying to do a really good thing with this. We understand that there are a lot of people who are having hard times in a lot of cases through no fault of their own.”

Consumers can play their part as well by looking at the choices that they make, the founder of Sole Responsibility says.

He added: “It’s going to take a long time to change perceptions but a lot of people are coming around to it.

“They are starting to say ‘these trainers have got a little mark on it and if we can get them cheaper then that’s brilliant, we’ll stop them from going to landfill’.” Mr Payne believes that the Covid-19 outbreak is accelerating this change in perception.

“It’s made people think again that there is a sustainable way of doing things and it’s worth looking at,” he said.

Sole Responsibility predominantly operates on eBay because it allows the firm to get to a large audience.

Shift to business and family focus

Halifax born and bred, Simon Payne was himself brought up on seconds.

“My mum was a single parent so we always had seconds and grew up with it,” he said. “I thought it was absolutely fine.”

Prior to establishing Sole Responsibility, Mr Payne was a project manager.

“I originally worked within the NHS for about five years and I used to set up IT systems,” he said.

“I then worked for a non-profit organisation in Leeds but I was doing a lot of hours and I was away a lot. We wanted to be as family centric as possible so I thought let’s have a go and see what we can do with this business.”

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James Mitchinson