Have you ever been walking along the promenade on your summer holiday, when you’ve noticed some local market stalls selling traditional souvenirs like dishtowels, key-rings and magnets, then suddenly you’re confronted by a very eager seller trying to shift knock-off Rolex watches and Gucci belts, even replica football shirts for a “very good price” (crazily low and easily negotiable)? In some senses there is a feeling of pity and sympathy towards these people who are so desperately trying to earn a living from selling counterfeit products, however, looking at the bigger picture, counterfeit products are illegal and in fact cost genuine manufacturers millions of pounds worth of sales every year.
Counterfeit industries have been around for decades now and have notably grown in popularity due to the significant advancement of technology in East Asia. So much so, that the counterfeit golf manufacturing industry is now estimated to be worth an astounding, $6 billion!!! This is $6 billion that is not being invested into authentic and established golf manufacturers. But these knock-off suppliers are not entirely to blame; the buyers are essentially a catalyst to the issue as they are the ones continuing to fund further production of such products, contributing to the growth of the counterfeit market.
After some quick research, I was able to find multiple websites offering, what would seem, the latest and best golf equipment currently on the market, at some outrageous prices. A Titleist Scotty Cameron Putter, that from any authentic retailer would set you back at least £250, was being sold for $25. A set of Taylormade irons that should cost in excess of £700, were on offer for $149. I even found products that were yet to launch by the actual manufacturer, which I’m sure will entice potential buyers, as they’d be getting a product before the professionals get to use it on tour.
This is a problem that genuine manufacturers are familiar with of all too well but unfortunately have little control over. The majority of these companies have switched from sourcing their components locally to places like China and Taiwan, and for obvious reasons, the cost of production is much less and the quality of product is better, more accurate and easier to adapt. Sadly this movement has only encouraged and helped the counterfeit suppliers to make better products and at a much faster rate.
The Chinese government and local police have taken measures to try tackle the issue across the country by raiding retail shops, seizing millions of pounds worth of equipment, however, this does not have as much of an affect as they would wish. Such producers of counterfeit equipment have previously been sentenced to prison and their factories have been closed down.
Top golf brands have introduced authenticity divisions within their business whereby consumers can check if a product is 100% genuine through the use of serial numbers that are engraved on the product. This is just another small step in reducing the problem, as many customers are surprisingly unaware of such scams on the Internet, even when the prices are evidently too good to be true.
To a point I can understand why people are buying such products, golf is by no means an easily affordable sport. The growth of counterfeits in sport is one of the reasons we continue to see companies increase their prices year upon year, as there are less buyers, the profit margins are increased to reduce the deficit, resulting in customers seeking a cheaper alternative. This problem doesn’t just exist in golf; football, tennis, rugby, running, you name it, there is fake equipment available at the touch of a button and quite literally anywhere in the world.
The scale of the issue and the countries, in which they predominately exist, means it is fundamentally impossible to completely shut down the counterfeit industry. Agencies and governments are working closely together to try control the issue and prevent it from growing any further, in the hope that they will see a steady reduction in the amount of suppliers distributing these products. The $6 billion counterfeit empire is going to take more than government efforts to bring down, a large part of the responsibility lies with the customers who must stop buying such products, some could also say authentic manufacturers must educate consumers more purposely to increase the awareness of counterfeits.