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What Happens to Unsold Chanel Purses?

Updated November 22, 2016

It's hard to imagine, but even the most successful design houses find themselves in possession of extra stock at the end of a season. The House of Chanel is no exception--even with popular items such as their 2.55 quilted bag (designed in 1955) still selling well years after the death of the iconic Coco Chanel. However, when a few of their seasonal handbags are left over, a plan to properly deal with the overstock is firmly in place.

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About Chanel

The House of Chanel, more commonly known simply as Chanel, is a Parisian-based fashion house. Founded by Coco Chanel, the house specialised in beautifully made luxury goods: handbags, haute couture, ready-to-wear, perfume and cosmetics. Princesses and queens carry Chanel handbags and wear Chanel suits, and Marilyn Monroe was a famous model for their legendary fragrance, Chanel No. 5.

Chanel on the cheap

Myths circulating around fashionable Internet forums claim Chanel never goes on sale. This is not true, however, the myth likely stems from other, high-end designers of handbags, such as Louis Vuitton, which historically does not put its pieces on sale.

Do not look for deeply discounted items from past years to be lurking, dusty, in the back shelves, however. Items that don't sell within a reasonable amount of time are promptly removed from the shelves.

No charity here

You might catch a rare sale item at the boutique or a grand deal at their outlet store, but don't expect to run across a Chanel handbag at a charity auction or to acquire one through a group such as Dress for Success. No leftover, seasonal handbags are donated to charity. According to Forbes, the House of Chanel is jointly owned by Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, who are the grandsons of Coco Chanel's early partner, Pierre Wertheimer, and they keep their donations to charity separate and generally cash-based.

Burning Parisian purses

And yes, this rumour appears to be true. Chanel has been known to burn leftover goods at the end of a season. In an attempt to outrun counterfeiters who make millions each year producing fake designer bags, Chanel has burnt leftover stock so that no part of its brand is left to easily duplicate. Coco Chanel herself is believed to have initiated the first conflagration. In addition, disposing of leftover stock this way helps to preserve the upper-class nature of the brand (only a few can afford it, as opposed to deep-discounted sale items winding up on the arms of middle-class soccer moms). In addition, the idea of a Chanel bonfire only adds to the mystic of Coco and her brand.

Chanel on sale

Chanel Outlet Stores offer discounted Chanel fashions and other products. In the United States, only one exists.

New York City area Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Central Valley, NY (845) 928-9981

Other Chanel boutiques in the States

Malls across the United States are home to Chanel boutiques and stores; check with them for any potential sale information.

New York City area The Mall at Short Hills Short Hills, NJ
(973) 912-8055

Houston, Texas area The Galleria Houston, TX
(713) 850-0055

Northern Virginia
Tysons Galleria McLean, VA
(703) 847-0555

vVsit its website and store locator at chanel.com/fashion/finder.php.

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About the Author

Lisa Henshall
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