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It first ran across the notion with this meme www.fullpunch.com/random/28-interesting-general-facts.html/

Every year Louis Vuitton burns all their unsold bags

A google search yields lots of results but none of them seems credible. Snopes yields nothing.

Any credible info?

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fwiw it sounds credible. A product where your entire value comes from the few letters stitched or printed on the front of the bag in a notoriously time-sensitive and fickle industry that is rife with counterfeiting, they will do whatever they can to make sure that last years genuine models don't end up on the counterfeit market. –  Mark Henderson Sep 29 '12 at 21:05
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They can just sell it 15% off –  raam86 Sep 29 '12 at 21:51
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Even after selling some of the last year's collection 15% off, there is perhaps some bags left. Why doubt that the unsold bags are burned, shredded or somehow disposed of? What else should they do with their excess production? –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 30 '12 at 1:11
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Anything but destroy it. It won't go bad. –  raam86 Sep 30 '12 at 2:15
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@raam - unlikely, they have an image to protect and discounting their prices discounts their exclusivity. Don't get me wrong, I don't endorse their actions, but the claim does sound plausible to me. I would like to see it confirmed though. –  Mark Henderson Sep 30 '12 at 7:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 26 down vote accepted

I work nearby the flagship LV shop in Paris, and I am pretty surprised by this kind of rumours. In fact, there is a constant line to enter the shop, like an apple store if they were releasing a new iPhone every day of the year. Does apple burn unsold iPhones ? No because there are none.

For the record, 2 years ago, Louis Vuitton had to close all shops 1 hour before during fall season, in order to avoid stock shortage during christmas holidays, despite raising price (yes, raising already over-priced items)

Here is the article (in a credible french newspaper)

I honestly don't see why LV could not sell all their production.

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As for damaged merchandise, I can tell you from experience that Mulberry (Equally high value, but lesser known British brand) have a whole section of their factory dedicated to repairing damaged leather goods. –  Jamiec Oct 3 '12 at 8:10
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Makes more sense to repair leather goods than phones though. The latter's components can be more easily recycled (in small pieces. Melted down, chopped up or some such). –  Jonta Oct 4 '12 at 15:55
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Well... logically this means that the statement is true. Like "all elephants in my bedroom are red" is true, because there are none. Not the kind of logic people use... I'll go away now... –  romkyns Oct 10 '12 at 1:39
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@vartec It is my opinion that these items are way too expensive, relatively to their original value (material + labor). Maybe the term "overpriced" is technically wrong, especially if you think that HYPE is never overpriced... but I think everyone got the point, and this debate is somewhat OT - Sent with my overpriced smartphone :-) –  Pandaiolo Jan 7 '13 at 16:56
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This answer appears to be anecdotal. Closing early does not mean they sell out of everything--merely the popular items. It could also be artificial hype. The supply of luxury items is often artificially constrained to create the illusion of scarcity. LV is capable of making unlimited bags--whether they destroy their merchandise or not, they carefully control the supply to avoid saturating the market. –  denten Apr 25 '13 at 20:51

They probably do.

While I couldn't find evidence for Louis Vuitton destroying their unsold products, except for the original article, there are proof for other companies doing it.

H&M and Wal-Mart:

The clothing retailer H & M promised on Wednesday that it would stop the practice of destroying new, unworn clothing that it could not sell at its store in Herald Square, and would instead donate the garments to charities...

She also found bags of new Wal-Mart garments with holes punched through them...

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said that she had been unable to learn why new clothing with the store’s tags had been destroyed, but she added that the company typically donated or recycled such items.

Chanel:

And yes, this rumor appears to be true. Chanel has been known to burn leftover goods at the end of a season. In an attempt to outrun counterfeiters who make millions each year producing fake designer bags, Chanel has burned leftover stock so that no part of its brand is left to easily duplicate. Coco Chanel herself is believed to have initiated the first conflagration. In addition, disposing of leftover stock this way helps to preserve the upper-class nature of the brand (only a few can afford it, as opposed to deep-discounted sale items winding up on the arms of middle-class soccer moms). In addition, the idea of a Chanel bonfire only adds to the mystic of Coco and her brand.

Also, from the same source about LV:

Myths circulating around fashionable Internet forums claim Chanel never goes on sale. This is not true, however, the myth likely stems from other, high-end designers of handbags, such as Louis Vuitton, which historically does not put its pieces on sale.

Another source for Chanel:

Years back I had written about how Chanel burns any merchandise that doesn't sell.

LV doesn't sell its products with discounts, and destroying unsold products is a common practice with both high-end and less expensive brands to avoid counterfeiting and increase the exclusivity of the brand. So it's a safe assumption that LV are destroying their unsold products. Not necessarily by fire, but still destroying them instead of putting them on sale.

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All those quotes are just repeating the same legend. I still dont see any evidence that it is taking place. I maintain that without official word from CoCo, LV or any other high end brand that this is a specific tactic (eg, to stop counterfeit) that this is anything but urban legend. Its much more likely (to me anyway) that they just dont manufacture much more than they need, and what is surplus they give away to staff, as promotional gifts, and other such things. Just because they dont markdown their surplus doesnt equate to them destroying it. –  Jamiec Oct 2 '12 at 7:30
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@Jamiac, There is an official admission from H&M that this was a practice and an admission from Walmart that this was done at least once in their NYC store. As well as credible sources that cite the same for Chanel. –  Ilya Melamed Oct 2 '12 at 9:38
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How is ehow a credible source, moreover, how is "Lisa Henshall, eHow Contributor" in any way linked to Chanel? Answer: Its not, and she's not. As for H&M and Walmart, neither are in any way related too the question - neither are high-end, luxury brands. To use an argument from above, if you showed that Bugatti torched their unsold cars it might be relevant, but telling me 2 low-cost bulk sellers dump unsold merchandise irrelevant to the question. –  Jamiec Oct 2 '12 at 10:22
    
@Jamiac, thestar.com is the online edition of the Toronto Star, one of the major Canadian newspapers. –  Ilya Melamed Oct 2 '12 at 10:33
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And....? You point? Author writes about the supposed practice of high-end luxury retailers burning surplus product... same author references it again. Still hardly conclusive evidence. –  Jamiec Oct 2 '12 at 10:36

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