Who buys counterfeits?

The Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018 estimates that the losses suffered due to global online counterfeiting amounted to $323bn in 2017, with luxury brands incurring a loss of $30.3bn through internet sales alone.

Luxury brands are arming themselves against the fake market and investing – as Louis Vuitton does – in designated departments to stop the unauthorised use of their brand. Louis Vuitton has teamed up with Alibaba (the other Amazon) to protect the brand and destroy fake replicas.

It is even possible to download apps like Entrupy and on-demand authentication software and scanners to check if items are fake or authentic. No matter what the latest technology can achieve, or what the patrolling of luxury brand can stop, people will keep buying counterfeits. It’s very easy, it only took us a couple of minutes to find this on iOffer.

ioffer louis vuitton

Using some common sense we can assume that the reasons behind buying and owning a fake luxury product may be mainly two: it’s cheaper, it boasts appearance an social status. This may be valid when considering those who cannot afford the real thing, but what about when some can buy the authentic items, do they also buy the fake ones?

We asked luxury buyers if they have ever bought a counterfeit, and it turns out that 32% of respondents regularly buy counterfeit goods. We then asked why, and among those who usually or sometimes buy counterfeits of luxury goods, the answers can be grouped in three categories. The most recurrent answer was because of price (38%). The second most popular response was that those products provide the same exclusivity, feelings or quality as the originals (34%). The third category of respondents is formed by those who simply like the products (30%). They told us:

Not all of them are cheap and bad quality.
— 32-year-old, income £100k to £150k
Sometimes they look exactly alike and cost me less than 1/3 of the original price.
— 23-year-old on £100k to £150k
I have bought counterfeit in the past; looked and felt exactly the same.
— 34-year-old £150k to £300k

Meanwhile, there are two main categories of respondents who claim not to be buyers of counterfeit goods. The first cite the poor quality of the product (71%) and the second group related to ethical concerns (20%):

If I were to buy luxury goods it would be for their quality and not for image, so I would not buy counterfeit of a poorer quality.
— 21-year-old with income of £100k to £150k
Fraud hurts people in so many ways and is illegal, I will not support such immoral and unethical activities
— 44-year-old, income £100k to £150k
Counterfeit items are not of the quality of the real thing. I buy these items for the experience of wearing and owning them not to try to convince others of my affluence or success. I have found over time that true luxury is about experience and not appearance
— 60-year-old with £100k to £150k income

In our conversation with Paul Walsh (see previous post) we asked him to comment on the data we gathered.

“I’m surprised to see that one in three buys counterfeits, if they can afford the real thing...The best counterfeits are clearly fake, if you can afford the original wouldn’t you be almost embarrassed if your friends see that you have a counterfeit product?

“In certain parts of the world like Asia, I don’t mean this in any judgmental way, I know that people buy Johnnie Walker but also Johnnie Walker counterfeit. Depending on who comes to their home, they may get the original, or if they are deemed to be someone who doesn’t really know what they are drinking they will get the counterfeit.

“The counterfeit market in alcohol and beverage varies massively by geography. It is tiny in developed market like the US and Europe, but in Asia it starts to increase. It isn’t just counterfeit brands that pass off. I remember seeing one years ago that was called Johnnie Golfer, the logo was a striding man happening to carry a golf bag. So, there is one instance where you try to copy the brands and one in which you try to look like the real thing as much as possible, without being a counterfeiter - but both are bad. A brand stands for everything that goes behind it: material, labour, ethics and the company that markets it.”


  • When it comes to counterfeit luxury, we must always evaluate the potential boost to social status they trigger alongside the environment where this enhancement happens.

  • Brands should fight the fake goods market by pointing out how detrimental this could be for people social image, by doing so they will question the very reasons behind buying a fake luxury product.

Rare: Consultancy