As manufacturers and retailers are gearing up for the holiday shopping season, so too are counterfeiters. They are hoping to cash in on the demand for winter warmers as consumers prepare for the chilly months ahead. Here we look at some of the most common counterfeits this winter and how to spot them.
Counterfeit clothing and footwear are often made of inferior quality materials and because of this, rarely protect you against the elements of winter as authentic brands promise to do. This is particularly true of the famous sheepskin UGG boots, originally from Australia and which are each year one of the most counterfeited brands worldwide. With official retail prices between $120 and $220 across the UGG range, counterfeiters can expect substantial profits despite selling products made with inferior quality leather, synthetic lining and adhesive chemicals, which according to the manufacturer are not found in official UGG boots.
The shoes are so widely counterfeited that UGG has launched Counterfeit Education - a page which displays photos of fakes and provides tips on identifying counterfeits as well as a search bar to allow consumers to check for verified websites and UGG retailers. eBay is also trying to inform consumers on how to spot fake UGG boots, advising that special attention should be paid to the packaging lid and label, the hologram and the trademark logo which should read ‘UGG Australia’. Consumers should also check for labels on the inside of the boot and test the flexibility of the sole.
As with UGG boots, Timberland boots are also on the most-wanted list each winter due to their distinguishable style and the brand's reputation for high quality. But with such a huge range of colours and styles available, consumers may find it difficult to tell the counterfeits and knockoffs from the genuine boots which retail from $120. While the brand promises durability, warmth and waterproof boots from their seasonal ‘winter icon’ range, fakes aren’t necessarily made with the same quality leather and rubber materials and often have poor and uneven stitching. On looking out for fake Timberland shoes, consumers should also pay attention to small details like barcodes - the Timberland brand never prints barcodes on the eyelet tags of their shoes - or check the shape, colour and position of the iconic logo which is normally found on the outer heel side of the shoe or the tongue of genuine boots. Unless you are buying online, you should also take the opportunity to handle the shoe - genuine Timberland boots will be a little weighty. All official Timberland retailers can be found on the brand's website.
The North Face - retailer of ‘high-performance climbing and backpacking equipment - is another brand which is popular amongst counterfeiters at this time of year. No longer just for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, the brand's waterproof and insulated jackets have become a popular winter purchase. Millions of fakes are sold worldwide - 50,000 counterfeit North Face jackets were seized in a single raid on a warehouse last December by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fake merchandise, with an estimated street value in excess of US$2 million, had been shipped from Bangladesh to New York just in time for the holidays. The counterfeit products reportedly sell for approximately one-third of the cost of the genuine North Face products and according to experts are of inferior quality. While authentic North Face jackets come with 3 white tags, including a size tag and care instructions on how to keep it waterproof, these tend not to feature on the counterfeits. Fake jackets also often zip up on the left side.
Another brand which originally specialised in outdoor clothing and now finds itself popular with counterfeiters is Canada Goose. Founded in Toronto in the fifties, the brand started as manufactures of a range of clothing for Arctic-type weathers but have now become a leading name in ‘luxury apparel’ with jackets in their classic Parka range costing between $850-$1,150. After appearing in a number of popular movies, imitations of Canada Goose Jackets have become common but at a much cheaper price. The brand's official website tries to help consumers identify Canada Goose counterfeits and alert them of the dangers of the counterfeit trade. According to the company, unauthorized retailers are selling jackets with an imitation of the brands logo but are made with feather mulch or other fillers as opposed to duck down, and using unknown animal furs. The fakes not only function poorly in extreme weathers but the unregulated materials which are used can contain bacteria and be potentially harmful to consumers.
To avoid over-paying and being left disappointed this winter, consumers should always shop with authorized retailers and verified websites. Common counterfeit clues include logos, holograms and packaging but it can still be difficult to spot a fake, particularly when shopping online as not all online retailers boast sufficient anti-counterfeit systems. Amazon however is leading the way amongst online retailers and has started 'Brand Gating' to stop counterfeits and protect big brand names.
Most brands are aware that some form of counterfeiting is taking place of their products, but may not have knowledge as to how to select a brand protection solution that will provide a long-term solution as opposed to merely a stopgap. Understanding the global counterfeiting industry will be beneficial in protecting brand equity, in order to tailor a solution to address specific risks.
Header picture by Hanna Smith