December 16th, 2011
03:56 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – As the countdown to Christmas continues, shoppers across the world are pounding the pavements in search of the perfect present.

The festive season is a veritable godsend for retailers, many of which make much of their profits in the final month of the year.

Yet 2011 has seen such businesses battered by higher costs, with floods in Australia prompting a spike in wool prices and the Arab Spring pushing up the price of textiles.

At a time when stores should be passing on some of those costs, a cursory glance at shop fronts in central London confirms what many analysts have suspected for some time: The only way to get people through the door is to offer a discount.

Sarah Linfield and Stephanie Eason were among the few gift-hunters to be carrying bags on Carnaby Street this week. But both said they bought their items in the sales, which this year started weeks before the holiday period.

Eason said she foresaw an austere Christmas and took the opportunity of an interview to remind CNN’s younger viewers that “this year it’s one present per person. One only!”

Linfield said the prospect of a recession was ever-present in people’s minds, causing them to be more careful with their cash.

Last month retail sales across the UK slumped 0.4%. Stripping out daily essentials like petrol for cars, the figures were even more bleak: Down 0.7%, a picture which the British Retail Consortium described as “utterly miserable.”

But it’s not just price cuts that are playing the Christmas Grinch for Britain’s boutiques. Counterfeits also catching the eye of many a thrifty customer.

A survey by UK law firm Clarke Willmott found more than a fifth of people said they would buy fake goods because they are cheaper.

The report offers some interesting - if unexpected - insights into spending habits of the sexes, various age groups, and income levels.

It found:

• Men are 50% more likely than women to buy fake goods

• 14% of those asked said they would buy a fake because the recession had eroded their buying power

• The unemployed are the most likely to buy phoney products

• Those aged between 25 and 34 are more likely to succumb to the appeal of fakes

Even more puzzling: People’s attitudes towards receiving forgeries.

Again, more than a fifth of respondents said they would be happy to receive a counterfeit present, especially if the giver couldn’t afford the real thing.

This means attitudes towards cheaper copies are changing.

In an era of low budgets but high aspirations, those wishing to “keep up with the Joneses” would rather have a rip off than a more economical, unbranded good. But shoppers do worry about falling prey to unreal items, especially online. Some 61% of respondents said they were worried about being conned into buying a fake.

Roy Crozier, an intellectual property partner with Clarke Willmott, says the trend isn’t just confined to high-end fashion and jewellery. Purchasers are being duped by suspect car parts and electronic goods as well.

“As always, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is,” he says.

The UK offers a snapshot of a global trend, which threatens luxury labels and branded businesses across Europe and beyond.

The world market for knock-offs is expected to grow to between $1.2 and $1.8 trillion by 2015.

For retailers Christmas is usually a time for cheer. But in Britain cuts and counterfeits may mean shoppers aren't spending as much this year.

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Strangewalk

    A Nokia engineer I once spoke with in China told me that within one year of opening a new factory there, the Chinese would have two clone operations going. Schadenfreude–the unprecedented outsourcing tidal flood driven by the greedy corporatists to exploit third world labor for quick profits will ultimately hurt them more than anyone else.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  2. freeman70

    Rational pricing for branded goods has been a long time in coming. Some brands are gouging customers outright. I realize capitalism dictates that pricing will be subject to supply and demand but for the system to work properly, consumers have to make intelligent choices. This is the reason we pay outrageous markups for relatively cheap products with fashions designs (hand bags, perfumes, cosmetics, etc.). At the prices LV charges for bags, I would expect a lifetime repair and replacement warranty. For some products, maybe we should let the counterfeiting continue. A simple pattern design or added feature isn't worth that much in term of intellectual property or man-hours of work. They just want to make you believe it is worth that much more. The counterfeiters are so successful because it doesn't require that much expertise to create a very good copy. With products that are really hard to counterfeit like a smart phone, it is really easy to tell the difference in quality and function. I have even jokingly created a term which I personally use to describe people who are slaves to branding and willing to pay the high prices associated with it. They suffer from what I call Louis Vuitton Syndrome or LV Syndrome. I chose this name not disparage Louis Vuitton. As a company, they are just doing what every company does and is using their brand recognition to enhance profits. Louis Vuitton makes quality products but I believe their products along with many other brands shouldn't command the premium prices that they currently do.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  3. JohnnyBKK

    I think most people who receive a gift aren't ignorant if the giver has a tight budget. In other words, "it's the thought that counts" still rings true. More importantly those people who wear/use something that is counterfeit are more concerned with other people who see them with these items. We/they figure, who cares where it comes from if everyone else believes it is real. I know here in Bangkok I sometimes am asked (of a luxury brand I am wearing), "Is that real?"

    December 17, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  4. Silver

    Strangewalk, the greedy corporatists didn't care because they anticipated that they would have moved on to greener corporate pastures by the time their scheme becomes unwound.

    December 17, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  5. Muhammad

    This is the utterance.

    December 17, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  6. Muhammad

    Of an honorable Messenger*

    December 17, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  7. Muhammad

    Authorized by the.

    December 17, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  8. Muhammad

    Possessor of the throne…

    December 17, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  9. Muhammad

    Fully supported.*

    December 17, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  10. Muhammad

    Treasure of the Heaven*

    December 17, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  11. Muhammad

    Everything is Free.

    December 17, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  12. Muhammad


    December 17, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  13. Muhammad

    Hereafter number 1.

    December 17, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  14. Muhammad

    Where rivers flow…

    December 17, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  15. Muhammad

    Welcome to my paradise.*

    December 17, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  16. Muhammad


    December 17, 2011 at 6:56 am |
  17. Muhammad


    December 17, 2011 at 6:56 am |
  18. Muhammad


    December 17, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  19. Portland tony

    When there are overages in manufacturing lots, the "extras" are not tossed. They may be sold sans designer labels to any number of outlets at a substantial discount. If the final product happened to have the original label re-attached that's fraud. If there's no label or an off brand label, that's business. Value shoppers know the difference.

    December 18, 2011 at 12:21 am |

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