H&M faced a storm of protest after it emerged that a New York store was destroying and discarding unworn garments as unemployment soars and the city's homeless brave sub-zero temperatures.
The popular clothing chain responded by promising to stop mutilating new clothes that it cannot sell at its Herald Square outlet and will instead donate the items to charity.
There had been outrage on websites, blogs and H&M's own Facebook page after a graduate student discovered that workers at the store were throwing out bags of clothing after slashing the items with box cutters or razors.
Cynthia Magnus wrote to the company's Swedish headquarters after she found bags of cut-up clothes behind the store in the heart of Manhattan's shopping district. When she received no reply, she alerted the New York Times to the practice.
New York's unemployment rate stands at more than 10 per cent and the city has been making extra shelter space for its homeless population during the current freezing temperatures. Families reliant on food stamps stand at record numbers.
So the destruction of new clothing to make it unusable - fingers were cut off gloves and men's jackets were slashed apart so that insulating fibre spilled out - was greeted with anger and disbelief.
H&M spokeswoman Nicole Christie said: "It will not happen again."
She said company policy is to donate unworn clothes and did not know why this store was instead cutting them up and throwing them out.
The company said that it gave half a million pieces of clothes to charity last year, but that not all items qualified. "We do not donate clothes that do not meet our safety requirements, chemical restrictions or are damaged," it said in a statement. "We are currently looking into if we can further improve our routines."