This summer is great for the outdoors. People are home, almost nobody travels abroad, and summer vacation is long. So where will we find connection and joy?
The great outdoors is great for social distancing and attracts us with promises of open spaces, fresh air, health, fitness, and adventure. The accessibility makes nature the best getaway for so many. As people embrace mother nature, outdoor equipment is booming, and sales of outdoor categories have seen a spike of 500% (!).
With success come threats.
No doubt counterfeits pose threats to the outdoor apparel and footwear categories, but they also infiltrate specialized product categories. No industry or product is safe from online counterfeiters.
Outdoors items often have countless hours of experience, effort, technology, and quality assurance that go into them.
Outdoor products include safety-related gear, such as crampons, helmets, carabiners, and ropes. Others may not be as crucial, such as clothing, water bottles, sunglasses, and duffle bags, depending on your outdoor adventure. Some fakes are low-quality goods, but others are “super fakes”, difficult to identify until they fail you when you need them most.
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The outdoor counterfeit problem
Counterfeiters damage businesses. They damage the reputation and hurt sales. This is not true only for designer brands like Gucci or Louis Vuitton, but also for outdoor brands like Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear, The North Face, Petzl, Mammut, and many others.
Counterfeiting also plagues small private companies in the outdoor industry, as well as almost any other B2C and even B2B businesses. The harm in fakes goes beyond its unfair effect on genuine brands and involves organized crime, child labor, and other criminal activities.
Counterfeiting has been a growing problem with the increase in online transactions through marketplaces, websites, and social media platforms. It is especially troubling with outdoor personal safety equipment.
Whereas not all trekking gear, for example, must be weatherproof, other items must perform. Performance and reliability are critical for outdoor safety gear. Outdoor tech, like water filters, external battery chargers, and head torches, should be of a quality to be trusted.
Companies like Petzl had some of their safety equipment copied, such as counterfeit TIKKA headlamps and MYO headlamps. According to the company’s website, back in 2011, they had already found counterfeit copies of personal protective equipment. Just like other industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, fake outdoor safety products can endanger unsuspecting customers who rely on their quality for their safety.
After learning that their detailed rock climbing maps that they had personally researched were illegally copied and sold on Amazon, rock climber Stefani Dawn, co-founder of Climb-On Maps, has reached out to other outdoor brands. She reports that the counterfeiting problem drives brands, especially small businesses, out of business.
In her article, published on Climbing.com, she writes that other brands, such as Arc’teryx and Metolius, have also suffered counterfeiting. According to her account, their most counterfeited products were non-safety-related products like clothing. Footwear and clothing are also the top counterfeit goods according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Fake outdoor apparel
Outdoor apparel is gaining popularity not only with outdoor enthusiasts and athletes but with other consumers as well. Professional counterfeiters make their products look so similar that with super fakes, it is almost impossible to tell if the products are genuine or not, especially when you look at photos on a website, marketplace, or social media platform.
When customers buy outdoor clothing for style, they are less likely to find the fakes disappointing, as they do not look for performance as much as fashion.
Yet, when it comes to outdoor apparel, outdoor enthusiasts often rely on the performance, such as a parka or socks to keep them warm at sub-zero temperatures.
Canada Goose sees its items imitated, and takes legal action to stop counterfeiting. Moose Knuckles warns that its goods are often copied, and the company’s official website explains that counterfeiters use fillers other than down for coats and jackets, that may also have bacteria and harmful substances. Fake fur and down may result in frostbite or freezing.
As part of its anti-counterfeiting activities, Patagonia, for example, warns customers of low-quality Patagonia counterfeits that do not deliver the same performance, while having terrible labor conditions and polluting the environments with toxic materials. As part of its dedication to authenticity, Patagonia does not sell on third-party online marketplaces like amazon.com and ebay.com.
Online outdoor counterfeits
Online channels drive the sale of fake items for various reasons. Even the giant marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay, do not verify that the goods sold on the platform are genuine, although they do have a no-counterfeit policy.
Third-party sellers need almost no verification of authenticity to start new accounts and sell their goods. Counterfeiters usually use fake names when they register at online marketplaces, and they use other systems to make them hard to trace. When a fake listing or account is taken down, they almost immediately open a new one under a different name.
Listings can be highly confusing for customers who may believe they purchase the original product from the genuine brand or the marketplace. Not all customers pay attention to the “sold by” detail.
But even if they do, counterfeiters may choose a variation of the original company’s name and confuse consumers. In marketplaces, titles like Fulfilled by Amazon, may give the products undeserved legitimacy.
Marketplaces like Amazon may also buy products at wholesale prices and sell to end customers. Such products are labeled “sold and shipped by Amazon.com,” but may prove to be counterfeited items believed to be genuine.
Outdoor gear is an integral part of the nature experience. When customers pay high prices for items, it means they value quality products, and often trust them with their safety.
When they put their faith in the brand, customers are likely to believe in the brand’s responsibility to eliminate counterfeits. And anyway, their experience can damage the brand and its reputation. So brands should be proactive and defend their hard-earned reputation and profits.
Brand protection for outdoors brands
Brand protection agencies offer a quick and cost-effective way to fight online brand abuse and counterfeiters. Systematic takedown actions and continuous monitoring take counterfeit items off and eventually discourage counterfeiters from continuing their fraudulent activities against your brand.
At Wiser Market, we work to eliminate the online sale of counterfeits for our clients by applying a brand protection strategy and custom-tailored solutions. Our anti-counterfeit solutions include advanced monitoring technology, unique eCommerce know-how and automatic enforcement to help you fight fakes with quick, effective results.
With Wiser Market, your brand will have a complete intellectual property protection solution.
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How to protect yourself from buying counterfeit outdoor products?
- Price. Discounted products are not necessarily fake, but deep discounts often point to counterfeits.
- Differences. Look for differences, such as subtle changes to the brand name or product descriptions.
- Shipping times. Unusually long shipping times may indicate a counterfeit.
- Seller. Where available, look for the seller’s name and verify they are approved.
- Overall caution. Check the product carefully when buying online.
If you think you have purchased a counterfeit, contact the manufacturer with your purchase details. You may not get your money back, but you could assist in removing fake products from the market, and help block sellers who sell fakes.
Do outdoor companies have a warranty for counterfeit products?
Companies only warranty genuine products they manufactured and usually do not cover products from unauthorized retailers.
Is it easy to spot counterfeit outdoor items?
With some high quality fakes, it’s difficult to spot the difference between the fake and genuine items, but this does not mean that the safety, performance, or quality are similar.
How can I tell if my new outdoor gear is fake?
It can be almost impossible to spot fakes. Many brands have information on their websites to help customers. Examples: