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Fashion and environmentalism aren’t perfectly compatible — even Patagonia admits that — but in recent years, retailers have started showing an increased interest in the afterlife of the clothing you buy from them, with big names like Madewell and H&M operating clothing recycling programs. Now Nordstrom is launching a clothing donation program, billed as a way of encouraging customers to keep their stuff out of landfills.
Nordstrom has partnered with Give Back Box, a company that sends donations to local charities like Goodwill. The process is pretty easy: You take a box, put your gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories in it, slap on a prepaid label, and drop it off at a UPS or USPS.
At the same time, Nordstrom is piloting an in-store donation program at six locations in Washington state where shoppers can just drop their unwanted clothing in Goodwill bins. On Thursday, the Nordstrom stores at Bellevue Square, Northgate Mall, Alderwood Mall, Southcenter Square, Tacoma Mall, and in downtown Seattle will start accepting donations.
Execs at the department store aren’t sure how long they’ll continue this initiative, nor have they decided whether to expand IRL donations to other stores.
“We’re really looking to our customers to guide us here,” writes co-president Erik Nordstrom in an email. “We want to see how they respond and whether they think this is a service we should continue offering.”
Nordstrom says that the clothing donation program was inspired in the first place by feedback from shoppers who were looking for a more environmentally friendly way to clean out their closets. (Reselling can be... a challenge.) Customer feedback is also the reason why Nordstrom is trying to work more sustainability oriented brands into its assortment. Everlane, which has made manufacturing transparency a big part of its identity, recently turned to Nordstrom to hold a pop-up shop, its first wholesale partnership.
In 2014, Nordstrom ran a similar program with Fashion Project, a secondhand clothing marketplace that forwarded a portion of the profits from each sale to charities. For every five pieces of clothing a person donated to Fashion Project, they would receive a $40 gift card to Nordstrom. (Fashion Project has since shut down its own operations and folded into Union & Fifth, another reselling site that benefits nonprofits.)
As far as environmentally and socially minded initiatives go, working with Give Back Box seems to be a pretty straightforward deal for retailers. The organization also works with brands like REI, Amazon, Loft, and Levi’s on virtually identical programs.