Why Canada Goose's CEO has a love-hate relationship with counterfeiting
Dani Reiss has spent considerable money fighting counterfeiters but admits imitation is flattery
Canada Goose chief executive officer Dani Reiss has told customers for years they'll never find a bathing suit emblazoned with his company's iconic logo because it doesn't make sense for the luxury winter apparel brand, but a quick search online will reveal he is sorely mistaken.
Law enforcement and the Toronto-based company known for parkas that sell for about $1,000 have unearthed thousands of bathing suits and other items the brand has never sold before, including tents and pants, both online and in overseas stores.
Like most business owners, Reiss prefers his products not be ripped off and he's spent considerable time and money trying to stop the flow of counterfeit Canada Goose goods from clandestine overseas manufacturers to markets where fake items are on full display or hidden in back rooms.
"The problem is you close one factory and another one opens," he said. "It is hard to imagine seeing the practice stop."
However, Reiss has a complicated relationship with counterfeiting because he admits it has benefits — especially in Asia, where Canada Goose recently opened stores in Beijing and Hong Kong and a regional office in Shanghai.
It helped raise awareness...for people who perhaps didn't know who we were until we were being counterfeited.- Dani Reis, Canada Goose CEO
"It helped raise awareness...for people who perhaps didn't know who we were until we were being counterfeited," Reis said. "It is something that people have referred to as a backhanded compliment and I suppose it is of sorts."
Reiss has never seen counterfeit Canada Goose goods originate anywhere other than China, but he's seen the products sold and distributed around the world, dating back to when the brand first became a hit in Europe more than 10 years ago and fakes cropped up in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
Since then, Canada Goose has received a steady stream of notifications about fake products from law enforcement and agencies charged with rooting out counterfeiting. Additionally, the brand has discovered plenty of misleading sellers on digital platforms.
Last season alone, Reiss said Canada Goose removed 30,000 fake online ads and another 1,700 websites falsely portraying themselves as the brand's official site or a legitimate seller of its products. The company combatted them with an online tool that allows customers to input any link to learn if the products advertised at the site are the real thing.
Offline Reiss has heard of someone starting a fake Canada Goose store in China years ago and other vendors flogging counterfeit versions of his products in flea markets in Thailand.
The brand even got tangled up in a 2012 lawsuit that saw five Swedes caught selling thousands of counterfeit Canada Goose jackets and other products for years.
Logo often gives imitators away
Meanwhile, Chinese officials have conducted raids on six manufacturing locations in the country, seizing more than 4,000 counterfeit products. Border authorities have also found Canada Goose fakes, including 55,000 false copies of the company's signature crests in Germany and France, where they were sent from Asia.
"Our logo is so complicated and intricate that even the best counterfeiters get something wrong with it," said Reiss, of the crest the brand stitches into all of its products, which features an overhead image of the North Pole surrounded by maple leaves and the company's name.
"I have seen it as bad as the maple leaf that we have on our logo as stars, down to smaller details like the width of the embroidery."
Counterfeit Canada Goose items are also often missing the polar bear hologram the brand began sewing into products in fall 2017, or the goose down stuffing, coyote fur lining and ability to withstand Arctic temperatures, which has caused Reiss to worry about consumers freezing when they are duped by fakes.
Nobody copies something that nobody knows about. It suggests a certain amount of brand recognition.- Joanne McNeish, Ryerson University
Joanne McNeish, an associate professor at Ryerson University specializing in consumer trust and marketing, said counterfeiting can be damaging because it often results in lost sales or reputation troubles.
It can be a compliment though, she said, because "nobody copies something that nobody knows about. It suggests a certain amount of brand recognition."
She added that companies might see counterfeiting of their products in some markets as a sign of demand in that particular region that can be used to guide their expansion plans before they start spending money.
The trick, she said, is arriving before the fad is over.
"Whether it is a long-lasting demand and a demand on which you can make a profit on is the question," she said. "It is not automatic now that you can go to China and be successful."