Adidas is considering “actually burning” $500 million worth of stuff as part of its split from controversial musician Kanye West, which will come at a high cost in the nine figures.
When Adidas and West, now known legally as “Ye,” first collaborated, the “Yeezy Adidas” clothing line, which made its debut in 2015, was an immediate success, being snapped up by A-list celebrities and quickly making over $1 billion in annual sales just for the Yeezy sneakers alone, and close to $2 billion annually overall.
But after West’s disastrous personal breakdown, which included sharing racist memes and rants online and mingling with prominent antisemites like Nick Fuentes, the business severed relations with West, leaving it with an expensive problem: what to do with all the Yeezy merchandise that hadn’t been sold.
According to The Washington Post, Adidas was sitting on $500 million worth of Yeezy shoes and was dealing with an amount of unsaleable goods on “a scale unparalleled in the fashion business.”
One possibility being looked at was trying to rebrand the shoes and sell them for less than their former Yeezy-brand price of between $200 to $600 per pair, with the labeling removed, making them “zombie Yeezys,” as one industry insider put it.
The corporation would suffer a financial setback while still being open to claims that it was making money from the affiliation with an unrepentant antisemite, which carries legal and public relations dangers.
Another choice, according to Tori Latham of the Robb Report, is to “actually burn them,” but this entails taking the biggest financial blow with no sales and just a tax write-off. Furthermore, according to Latham, it is a “unsavory choice…that comes with heaps of unwanted attention, given the ethical and environmental problems involved in burning millions of dollars’ worth of things on fire without really having a valid reason.”
The only PR-safe course of action might be to donate the shoes to earthquake-devastated regions in Turkey and Syria, for instance, or to copy a Nike program that recycles donated and unsalable shoes into materials for gym floors and new sneaker soles, but doing so still entails a significant financial loss.
Adidas has not yet made a decision regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Yeezy sneakers, and it will probably take a few more months before it does.