The Growing Threat of Counterfeit Goods

A Study into the Consumer Demand for and Proliferation of Counterfeit Luxury Handbags

Julia Tarakanova
Brunel University

Abstract

Luxury fashion brands are currently facing a pronounced problem from the growing abundance of counterfeit luxury handbags on the market. The availability of such handbags poses an increasing threat to genuine brands in terms of the erosion of brand and equity and loss of revenues and profits.

This thesis focuses on the consumer's propensity to purchase counterfeit handbags and aims at identifying factors which drive consumers towards these goods. Various consumer behaviour theories, models and studies constructed by previous research are presented in the literature review and linked to the research topic.

The primary research comprises of three qualitative methods: a focus group, consisting of a convenience sample of five female Brunel University students, a face-to-face interview with M. Truncellito - professional Italian journalist with broad expertise in the field of fashion and counterfeiting, and a via e-mail interview with the representative of Luxe Corp - a Strategy and Business Consultancy Company, which specializes in the field of luxury fashion.
Various factors are found to be driving consumers to purchase counterfeit handbags. These are strongly related to the social environment; today’s societal pressure to keep up with friends, colleagues and the higher classes in terms of possessions pushes individuals towards counterfeits.

Moreover, the media and celebrities tend to be strong purchase motivators; individuals are compelled to emulate those they wish to be associated with. In the process of imitating styles and tastes of prominent figures, the probability of turning to counterfeits, such as handbags, rises.
Physical appearance of handbags is found to be a crucial motivator - handbags have to resemble to a great extent the real thing in order to be appealing. Hence, the emergence of ‘super copies’ is predicted to be a significant future threat to designer houses.