Mystery boxes are the new way to shop: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Mystery boxes are the new way to shop: Getty Images/iStockphoto

With many of us not feeling quite so in need of a regular fashion fix during lockdown, the knock-on effects have been huge.

Millions of Bangladeshi garment factory workers have been left out of work by the coronavirus pandemic, after major fashion brands cancelled orders en masse to the tune of $3.5bn.

“We do not want charity, we just want companies to pay their bills and respect their contracts,” factory owner Mostafiz Uddin told The Independent.

“We have bought the raw materials, we have produced the garments, we have invested the money and we will not be able to survive. We will literally die. It will be impossible for us to handle this. Our workers will be suffering a lot. I have no words to express what it will do to us.”

Some 135,000 tonnes of new clothes have also been consigned to landfill, reports the Daily Record.

But one Edinburgh start-up sought to change all that by launching Lost Stock, to unite unwanted clothes with new owners and donating the proceeds to garment workers in need. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Lost Stock?

It’s a new scheme bridging the gap between starving garment workers and wasted clothes. It delivers mystery boxes of clothing from a range of high-street brands for half the cost of the normal retail price. The clothes are shipped direct from manufacturers in Bangladesh to consumers in the UK.

How much is a box?

Each box costs £35, half the price of what the clothes would retail for normally (around £70 altogether).

What will be inside?

You’ll receive a guaranteed three items; in most cases all products will be tops and t-shirts as it’s harder to get the fit right on bottoms, according to Lost Stock. The clothing would originally have been destined for high street brands – however, they won’t have branded labels on as the companies cancelled their orders.

Although the contents are a mystery, shoppers get to fill in a questionnaire beforehand so that items are tailored to them. Questions include gender, size and preferences when it comes to colours and prints.

Can I send it back?

According to Lost Stock, a large proportion of the cost of the box goes towards the donation to Bangladeshi factory workers. Only whole box returns will be accepted, customers must pay for shipping, and they won’t receive the donation or original shipping costs back when they’re refunded.

Lost Stock says: “We’d encourage you to swap and share the clothes with your friends if there are items you don’t like and we’re currently working on a sharing platform for this.”

Where does the money go?

Each box costs £35 plus £3.99 for shipping. Lost Stock has shared a transparent pricing model to show exactly where all the money goes. This is how it’s currently split:

Transaction charge: 3 per cent

Lost Stock staff costs, marketing and returns: 9 per cent

Product costs: 30 per cent

Transport and logistics: 9 per cent

NGO Partner, Sajida Foundation: 37 per cent

Postage: 12 per cent

The 37 per cent that goes to the Sajida Foundation means a worker is supported for a week with every box sold.

Whose idea was it?

Lost Stock was conceived by the team behind Mallzee, a free shopping app which has over 180 high street brands and popular retailers.

The original goal was to support 5,000 families in May and 100,000 by the end of 2020. To date, 63,875 mystery boxes have been sold. Order from loststock.com.

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