Executive Briefings

How a Shirt Covered in Swastikas Ends Up in a Department Store

Retail supply chains are so complex that sometimes a Nazi symbol can slip through the cracks.

How a Shirt Covered in Swastikas Ends Up in a Department Store

The shirt looked, at first glance, quite simple, even humdrum — a short-sleeved, black button-down, from the streetwear label Airwalk, priced at $12.99, and patterned with tiny, white polka dots.

Except they weren’t dots. They were swastikas, roughly 14,000 of them in all.

How exactly a shirt covered in swastikas made it through the design process, much less crammed into a rack in a Ross Dress for Less store in Florida where Bloomberg found it last week, can probably be chalked up to retailers’ vast and complex retail supply chains, where errors can often go overlooked.

The shirt had been designed by a company that licensed the Airwalk brand, then manufactured in India, shipped to a U.S. warehouse, and delivered to Ross stores, according to people involved in the process. Apparently nobody flagged it along the way. Ross Stores Inc., a discount clothing chain with more than 1,500 stores across the U.S., said in a statement that it was removing the shirt from stores.

Several layers of quality control are supposed to catch such items before they hit store racks. Many retailers hire auditors to visit factories and inspect the goods; their buyers often host apparel-makers, too, searching through designs to pick out what they want to stock in their stores. Off-price retailers such as Ross, however, often buy from brands and therefore aren’t involved in the production process, although they will also order some merchandise manufactured just for them.

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The shirt looked, at first glance, quite simple, even humdrum — a short-sleeved, black button-down, from the streetwear label Airwalk, priced at $12.99, and patterned with tiny, white polka dots.

Except they weren’t dots. They were swastikas, roughly 14,000 of them in all.

How exactly a shirt covered in swastikas made it through the design process, much less crammed into a rack in a Ross Dress for Less store in Florida where Bloomberg found it last week, can probably be chalked up to retailers’ vast and complex retail supply chains, where errors can often go overlooked.

The shirt had been designed by a company that licensed the Airwalk brand, then manufactured in India, shipped to a U.S. warehouse, and delivered to Ross stores, according to people involved in the process. Apparently nobody flagged it along the way. Ross Stores Inc., a discount clothing chain with more than 1,500 stores across the U.S., said in a statement that it was removing the shirt from stores.

Several layers of quality control are supposed to catch such items before they hit store racks. Many retailers hire auditors to visit factories and inspect the goods; their buyers often host apparel-makers, too, searching through designs to pick out what they want to stock in their stores. Off-price retailers such as Ross, however, often buy from brands and therefore aren’t involved in the production process, although they will also order some merchandise manufactured just for them.

Read Full Article

How a Shirt Covered in Swastikas Ends Up in a Department Store