Where do stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Jomashop and other discount sites get their items? How do you know the items on these sites are authentic? How does Costco have Birkin bags and Prada for sale? This is a question I get asked a lot. Often, these items come from what is called the grey market, and all the items are authentic.
The typical chain of retail is designers sells to authorized sellers, such as Nordstrom or smaller boutiques, then direct to customers. In the grey market, those authorized sellers often off-load the merchandise in bulk to grey market sellers. It could be past season merchandise that didn’t sell or current season items. The current season items could be bought direct from the authorized seller. There is no secret the mark-up in fashion is huge.
These authorized sellers only have a limited amount of time to sell items in order to bring in the new, or meet the sale quotas designers have. This is a big chunk of where the grey market sellers get their goods. Authorized sellers need to get rid of unsold items fast and selling them in bulk to 3rd party sellers is the easiest way. Also, the price advantage of items bought from European authorized sellers and sold to the US market is another grey area.
Before I purchase from one of these sites I do lots of research. I check reviews, check if the address and phone number are real, how long have they been in business, and are they active on social media. Remember, I take reviews with a grain of salt. No site is without bad reviews, and people typically only review when they are mad. I look more for reviews if the items are fake, than customer service. Every site has someone claiming fake items are sold, but are there way more positive reviews. If I am ever in doubt, I pay to have the item authenticated. I typically do this for the first and second purchase to make sure. Paying for authenticating is worth the peace of mind.
Is this legal? It’s grey…hahah. Most of the time designers look away and know this is happening. In the end it’s good for their bottom line. If these sites were selling fakes the designers would be coming after them. The fact that they have been around for years without designers harassing them or shutting them down says a lot. The Fashion Law wrote a great article on this subject here.