Black Friday and Cyber Monday now constitute two of the most significant e-commerce dates in the year. Traditionally, Black Friday was a single day of retail sales held in the United States on the day following the Thanksgiving holiday in November. In recent decades, however, Black Friday has become an extended period of shopping that lasts through the Thanksgiving weekend and culminates on Cyber Monday, the single biggest online shopping day for countries outside of Asia (Singles Day in China creates more sales).
According to analysis done on 80 of the top 100 online retailers in the US, Black Friday 2018 generated sales of $6.2 billion, while Cyber Monday was responsible for a further $7.9 billion. These figures represented a marked increase in sales as Black Friday rose by 23.6% on 2017 and Cyber Monday saw sales growth of 19.3%.
The transnational nature of e-commerce has resulted in the spread of the Black Friday sales period to countries around the world. Google Trends data suggests that global interest in the event has doubled in the past five years, while McKinsey’s 2018 report also highlighted that European participation has risen too. Purchases made by UK consumers in 2017 had increased by 35% on 2015, and in Germany there was a 34% increase over the same period. Analysis from the websites associated with the global discounter picodi.com points to the event generating a worldwide average rise in sales of 663% when compared to an ordinary day.
Counterfeits and Black Friday
The growth of Black Friday and Cyber Monday represents a significant event for retailers and e-tailers, but the massive increase in e-commerce transactions and discounted listings also provides an opportunity for counterfeiters.
Consumers searching for heavily-discounted goods are not only susceptible to the appeal of legitimate sales, but also to cheap fakes masquerading as official. Crucially, this period allows counterfeiters to exploit two trends in order to generate increased sales of fake items.
First, whereas many counterfeit product listings are typically detectable by their significantly lower prices, in a period when substantial discounts on high-value products are common, it becomes more confusing for consumers to spot reductions that would normally be a red flag. This is particularly true on marketplace-style websites such as Amazon and eBay where the mix of official and counterfeit products is unclear.
Secondly, a common trend on standalone webshops is to artificially raise prices of fake goods to almost official levels. By offering products in a way that creates the illusion of realistic pricing, some unwary consumers are fooled into believing that they are simply getting a good deal rather than a fake. The period around Black Friday further encourages this through the wide-scale availability of cut-price branded items.
Black Friday 2018 Counterfeits in the Clothing and Footwear Sector
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounting strategies favor high-priced Electronics brands, research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has also pointed to the growth of Clothing and Footwear as a category. Many consumers see the Black Friday sale as an opportunity to purchase gifts ahead of Christmas, and many clothing retailers including Topshop, H&M, and Uniqlo have offered substantial discounts in recent years to facilitate this. The consumer survey undertaken by PwC in 2018 showed Clothing as the second most popular category during the period.
The consumer desire to find bargains in this sector also correlates with the high level of exposure that Clothing and Footwear brands face from IP infringement. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that global seizures of counterfeit Clothing and Footwear products exceed every other product category. Drawing on seizure data from 184 countries between 2014 – 2016, the OECD identified seizures of counterfeit and pirated Clothing and Footwear products as the most common category in every year.
It’s clear that Clothing and Footwear is a popular target sector for counterfeiters at this time of year, so what can businesses do to protect their own IP?