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The Short Version: The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, but it has also sparked altruistic efforts to help. Lost Stock launched in 2020 on a mission to save canceled clothing orders from going to landfills and support garment workers in need. Lost Stock sells mystery boxes of three clothing items selected based on the customer’s gender, age, size, and favorite colors. Every box sold not only pays factories for canceled stock, but also financially supports a garment worker’s family for a week, and that can be one heck of a conversation starter for singles going on a first date in a new outfit.
In March 2020, many industries struggled to weather the storm created by a raging pandemic. The clothing supply chain broke down completely as Western shoppers went under lockdown and major retailers canceled clothing orders from factories in developing countries.
These factories had invested capital and employed workers to produce hundreds of thousands of items of clothing that were suddenly unwanted and destined for the landfill.
A BBC article laid out how dire the situation was for families who depend on the textile and clothing industry. “If Coronavirus doesn’t kill my workers, then starvation will,” said a Bangladeshi manufacturer who employed over 18,000 garment workers.
Fortunately, a tech company based in Scotland saw these headlines and took immediate action to help garment workers. Lost Stock launched in May 2020 to fill the role of retailers and find buyers for clothing items that were part of bulk orders canceled due to COVID-19. The website currently delivers mystery boxes of discounted clothes to people in eight countries, including the U.S., the U.K., and Ireland.
Every box sold offers direct relief to the family of a garment worker in Bangladesh. Lost Stock has paid factories for their lost stock and donates its profits to SAJIDA Foundation. SAJIDA Foundation is a Bangladeshi nonprofit that offers cash transfers, food vouchers, and other social initiatives for local families in need.
Lost Stock is the perfect place to find a date outfit that makes you feel good about yourself. Shoppers cannot pick individual clothing items, but they can request certain colors or sizes to suit them best. It’s a fun and interesting way to try something new, do a good deed, and spark a conversation about what’s going on in the world.
“The whole idea for Lost Stock is it’s great clothes for the buyer, and it’s much-needed support for garment workers,” said Lost Stock CEO Cally Russell. “It also stops these products from potentially ending up in the landfill.”
Lost Stock is the passion project of a Scottish team that created the Mallzee shopping app. The team has been in the fashion industry for years and now has committed to helping it survive the coronavirus pandemic. Its mission is a simple one: to find homes for unwanted clothes and thereby put extra funds into the pockets of garment workers.
When a customer buys a mystery box of clothes, it has a direct impact on a family in Bangladesh and provides funds to support that family for a week. According to the pricing breakdown, about 37% of the money from each box sale goes to SAJIDA Foundation.
Customers can choose winter, spring, or children’s boxes, and they can select their gender, age range, size, and color preferences to make sure the clothing items in their boxes are customized to them. Some sizes are unavailable because Lost Stock has a finite supply of clothing. Each box contains three items of clothing selected by the Lost Stock team.
“We try to match people to clothes that fit and they’ll like, but it’s not always possible,” Cally said. “Fortunately, we’ve seen an amazing community form around swapping clothes.”
Lost Stock has a refund policy for faulty or damaged goods, but the team asks that customers consider swapping, donating, or reusing the clothes in their mystery boxes to reduce waste and support garment workers. Shoppers of Lost Stock merchandise can get discounted memberships with Nuw and Swopped to trade unwanted clothes for something more suitable to their sense of style.
Getting a mystery box of clothing at Lost Stock is a bit of a gamble because you don’t know what items you’ll be getting. However, it’s a safe bet that your actions will help at-risk families get through a crisis, so it’s well worth taking a chance on a box of discounted clothes.
Cally said Lost Stock prices boxes to eliminate the retail markup and provide an excellent value to customers. “Our position is the box should be worth double what you paid for it,” he said.
Since it launched in May, Lost Stock has made a tremendous impact in underserved communities in Bangladesh and beyond. The company started with the goal of selling 50,000 boxes by the end of the year. It ended up selling over 127,000 boxes — which enables the company to support impoverished families for 127,000 weeks.
Lost Stock has appealed to customers as young as 16 and as old as 65, and it has sent boxes to small suburbs as well as major cities. The startup company has partnered with charities, inspired virtual swap meets, and found a way to turn canceled clothing orders into an unprecedented success story.
“As we’re coming out of 2020, I think we should all be thinking about how we can do more good for the world,” Cally said. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with Lost Stock. We saw something happening, and we stood up and tried to help people.”
Lost Stock’s clothing items can make great dating outfits because they come with a story built in. This is especially helpful for video daters who don’t have many conversation starters at hand. The clothing items may not be your style, but they can still tell another person something about your core values and social engagement.
“It’s a great talking point for a date,” Cally told us. “If you buy a Lost Stock box, it gives you something to talk about and shows that you’re open to trying new things.”
Lost Stock is a short-term venture to correct a COVID-related issue in the clothing supply chain. The company has a natural endpoint when its stock of discounted clothing items runs out, so don’t wait to get your mystery box and support this worthy cause.
“It hasn’t always been easy and simple, but we are trying our best to improve as many lives as we possibly can through this process,” Cally said. “That, to me, is something I can look at in 2020 as quite a positive achievement.”
Lost Stock began out of an altruistic desire to rescue clothing orders from the landfill and give support to struggling garment workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The website has raised awareness about the short-term crisis caused by a surplus of clothing and motivated charitable buyers to help ensure workers don’t bear the financial burden of canceled retail orders.
Over the last seven months, Lost Stock has sold over 127,000 boxes of clothing, and it still has enough left in stock to outfit plenty of daters in 2021.
If you want to show your true colors on a date, consider buying a Lost Stock box to complete a new look with clothing made by international garment workers. Then you can start a conversation about issues that matter.
“Fashion is a story, and so many dates are based around stories,” Cally said. “What we’ve tried to create with Lost Stock is something that benefits everyone involved in the process, and I think we’ve achieved that.”