Why are Millennials apparently addicted to Chinese knockoffs?

Photo: @lira_n4 via Twenty20
Jan 10, 2019

The apparel market is being besieged by counterfeits, and Millennials might be to blame. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2.5 percent of global imports and five percent of imports from the European Union are fakes. In addition, the number of knockoff goods seized by American customs officers jumped by nearly 10 percent between 2016 and 2017.

It may come as no surprise that, when it comes to buying illicit merchandise, frugal, impulse-buying Millennials are leading the charge.

“Our new report offers some alarming insights into Millennials’ shopping habits leading them to counterfeits,” said Laura Urquizu, Red Points CEO. “Many Millennials no longer shop off a list and tend to make purchases based on impulse, which puts them at greater risk of falling for fakes.”

In defense of Millennials, some don’t realize they are buying imitation goods in the first place. “Last year, millennials unknowingly spent $482 million on counterfeits on Black Friday, and one in four are likely to fall for counterfeits this year due to their inability to spot fakes online,” reports TBO (Trademarks & Brands Online).

Yet not all customers that buy knockoffs do so unwittingly. Consumers searching for counterfeit goods scour dark corners of the web to find pop-up sales sites for illegal merchandise that are taken down as quickly as they go up. Shady buyers also find fakes by private messaging independent sellers on Amazon or by physically visiting places such as Canal Street in New York City, a hub for illegal merchandise.

Despite U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s best efforts, counterfeits may become even easier to obtain as Chinese B2B platform Alibaba permeates the U.S. market.

When it comes to what type of products are the most replicated, apparel is the top offender, accounting for 15 percent of all shipments seized by U.S. customs officials. Second on the list is watches — but keep in mind that these confiscated shipments aren’t all comprised of knockoff Chanel coats and Rolexes.

USA Today reports, “The Super Bowl is one of the main targets for counterfeiters. Operation Team Player, an effort to curb counterfeit sports items, recovered a reported 24,324 items worth over $1 million just before the big game.”

Some knockoff manufacturers are so skilled at making replicas that the fake merch is nearly impossible to detect, and the price tags makes them difficult for frugal customers to resist.

“Consider that the average cost of a jersey is $100,” says Kevin Redlich, a client solutions manager in Milwaukee, WI. “You can get a knockoff for $25.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think that Millennials, in particular, fall prey to purchasing knockoff goods? What factors will contribute to the growth or demise of the counterfeit market in 2019?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Remember what your mom said, 'If it’s too good to be true…'"
"Here we go with one more thing to blame the Millennials for, but every generation has been into knockoffs at one point in time."
"The short answer is, if you can’t tell the difference and the cost is far less, why wouldn’t they?"

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Why are Millennials apparently addicted to Chinese knockoffs?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Zel Bianco

Millennials, my kids included, are generally very aware of social issues and especially those that end up hurting people. Certainly the manufacturing of knockoffs comes at a price that includes humans being compromised, so I don’t think the majority of Millennials would knowingly purchase items that are knockoffs. The question becomes how do you tell when some of them are so well done that even experts find it hard to tell the difference? Price, that’s how.

If an NFL Jersey generally costs $100 and up, then how is it possible that the one being sold is priced at $25? Remember what your mom said, “If it’s too good to be true…”

Bob Phibbs

Let’s be honest, this is a generation that grew up on the look of success. From “Mission Accomplished” to runway knockoffs/fast fashion to the illusion of friends on social media the look is more important than the reality. This report doesn’t shock me at all.

Doug Garnett

The Millennial theories all presume massive social change. But there’s one fact about Millennials and Gen Z that we seem to forget: They don’t have as much money as older generations.

It’s no surprise that they would buy more knockoff goods — because those goods are cheaper. Just as they buy more low cost phones and cars.

But this doesn’t reflect a sea change in consumer attitude. As they age, their financial wellbeing increases — and that means they’ll end up looking a lot like those of us who are currently mid-century mid-lifers.

Gene Detroyer

I echo Zel’s comment. My kids and older grand-kids know very well they are buying knockoffs. I am sure many people out there think they are getting a bargain on the real thing, but it is quite foolish not to question why something costs 75 percent, 80 percent or 90 percent less than the real thing.

Hey, why pay $75 for a t-shirt that you are going to wear a few times and then never wear again when you can get one that looks pretty much the same that will fall apart before next season?

The major online retailers are making efforts to stop this. In China, Alibaba’s efforts might be more aggressive in stopping it than Amazon’s. In China however, one can buy “Adidos” hoodies or “Chanal” sweaters that will satisfy the young people. (Those are not typos.)

Georganne Bender

Here we go with one more thing to blame the Millennials for, but every generation has been into knockoffs at one point in time. Who doesn’t remember Baby Boomers clamoring for fake Louis Vuitton bags?

It’s just easier for Millennials because every social media timeline is peppered with great looking clothing ads for products that you only find out are crap after you order them. Most Millennials that I know, Jasmine included, care about what they purchase and where and how it’s made.

Ralph Jacobson

As long as there is demand for specific brands, there will be demand for knockoffs of those products. In addition, for all age groups, not just Millennials, there is a certain pride factor of procuring an “almost” brand product by paying significantly less than the real brand.

Joan Treistman

Isn’t up to manufacturers and governmental agencies to monitor and control the counterfeit market? If the look, feel and price are right there will be customers willing to buy the fakes, wittingly or unwittingly. I don’t think it’s the responsibility of Millennials or any age-group to be able to identify counterfeit goods unless they’re aware of their existence and want to avoid them.

Craig Sundstrom

If this were a silent movie, this is where the cowboy or knight would jump down from his horse to save milady’s honor. There are a lot of things Millennials can be rightly or at least plausibly accused of, but I don’t think this is one of them. Whatever differences there are between them and “other shoppers” — now there’s a tangible group, huh? — I think is due to age-related, rather than generational factors.

Steve Montgomery

The short answer is, if you can’t tell the difference and the cost is far less, why wouldn’t they? I agree with Zel that about things that are too good to be true, but even knowing it can’t be the real thing doesn’t mean that anyone, including or perhaps especially cost conscious/value driven Millennials won’t buy.

gordon arnold

We might be confusing cheap knockoffs with higher value, low priced alternatives. China can and does make a great deal of good to very high quality merchandise.

China is not the only place to find cheap knockoffs that infringe on patents. In fact it is easy to divert attention away from the guilty simply by routing through China with false origin tags already fastened to the product. The search for truth never ends with the seemingly obvious.

"Remember what your mom said, 'If it’s too good to be true…'"
"Here we go with one more thing to blame the Millennials for, but every generation has been into knockoffs at one point in time."
"The short answer is, if you can’t tell the difference and the cost is far less, why wouldn’t they?"

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you agree that Millennials are more prone, whether by intention or not, to buying knockoff merchandise?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...