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Unsold fashion pilling up after supply chain disruption, report suggests


Last year’s supply chain delays are still causing issues for fashion retailers, with M&S, Asos and Next’s warehouses all clogged up with unsold stock.

According to a report in The Sunday Times, M&S has even asked suppliers to postpone deliveries to its warehouses and has delayed finalising orders for 2023. The retailer has discounted its coats, jackets and boots by 20%, in a move described as an attempt to clear excess stock not sold during the mild start to winter.

An M&S spokeswoman said that it was “re-adjusting stock flow” as supply-chain disruption eased. The retailer did report clothing and home sales rose 4.2% in October.

Next, which makes 41% of its online sales from third-party brands, has returned some of this offering to these suppliers in a bid to clear space. Next said it had returned only a “very small” amount that it didn’t own and inventory was at planned levels.

Furthermore, an industry expert reported that lead times for goods from east Asia had shortened to about seven weeks, compared with 11 over summer. This means retailers that are still clearing last year’s delayed stock are receiving new stock quicker than expected, just as consumers tighten their belts.

For e-tailer Asos its reliance on such goods has added to its over stock issues. The fast fashion retailer has £1.08bn of unsold stock, a 34% increase on the year before.

While, clothing suppliers to Tesco are braced for delays in orders after the chain wrote to them to remind them of its stock holding policies, although a source of The Sunday Times close to the supermarket denied this was linked to an excess of stock.

This back log of fashion items is likely to take some time to clear, with the number of garments sold in the UK falling. In the 12 weeks to October 16, it dropped by 1.2% amid a broader spending slowdown, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

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