MONTREAL — Over the past 50 years, Canada Goose has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of extreme weather outerwear. But that success has come with a price, namely counterfeit knockoffs that many of today’s top brands experience.
The Toronto–based manufacturer scored a recent victory when 2,000 fake Canada Goose coats, among other brands, were seized in a raid in China and a team of counterfeiters received prison sentences and fines. It’s the biggest single seizure of Canada Goose fakes and shows how serious the problem has become, according to Kevin Spreekmeester, vice president of global marketing at Canada Goose. The company works with a brand protection agency in Boston that discovered 1.3 million fake Canada Goose coats for sale over a six-month period, he noted.
“We’re not so much concerned with lost sales, because we’re sold out,” Spreekmeester said. “We’re more concerned with brand equity and the long-term impact on consumer trust. Many of the fakes don’t use down that we put in our Canadian-made coats. Instead, they’re made from feather mulch covered with bacteria, fungus and mildew, which presents a serious health risk, not to mention the possibility of freezing to death in extreme climate.”
Canada Goose coats retail for $500 to $1,000 compared to about $150 for a fake. Consumers realize it’s a fake at that price, so the counterfeiters have raised their prices, making it harder to trace them, said Spreekmeester.
“It’s becoming worse for all brands because consumers globally have become more confident shopping online, and as online sales have increased, so has counterfeiting,” he said. “The Internet has become the flea market of the new millennium. They don’t have to set up a manufacturing facility, and if they are taken down on one ISP they can pop up again on another.”
There are more than 200 Internet sites listed on Canada Goose’s home page that are selling fakes, which consumers can check out to avoid getting ripped off.
“You can’t buy a Canada Goose coat online. If you go on our site, it will direct you to a retailer that sells our products,” said Spreekmeester.
In addition to the Boston Agency, the company has another agency in London to cover Europe and hires people to scan the Internet for rogue B2B and B2C sites.
“I’m also co-chair of a task force I helped establish with the Outdoor Industry Association in the U.S.,” he said. “We educate manufacturers and lobby government for policy change. We’re also working with the credit card companies to trace fake sites to make it more difficult for counterfeiters to conduct business online.”
The private company spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to protect its brand, and Spreekmeester gets several e-mails a day regarding seized fakes at some border.