Steven Jackson, Business Reporter
Grupo David Enterprises, distributor of the popular Clarks shoes, says Jamaica represents five per cent of regional sales but that counterfeits are literally hurting soles and sales.
Counterfeits are so widespread that it delayed the launch of a flagship store, Grupo David executives told Sunday Business.
"Yes, we are (thinking of a store); however, with the current situation of the counterfeit, it is not visible for now. In the near future, if we can get protection towards this issue, we will do," said Melissa Jiménez Dutari, regional marketing manager at Grupo David Enterprises based in Panama.
Authentic Clarks sell for about J$10,000 while counterfeits sell for half that amount. Consumers fear buying the fakes at a premium. They often query the seller while examining the threading, squeezing the cheese-like soles, nicking at the leather and cross-checking the writing with the expected country of manufacture - all in a bid to determine the authentic from the fake shoes.
Grupo David is the authorised distributor for Clarks in Latin America and the Caribbean. It distributes through a group of local authorised resellers.
"Jamaica represents five per cent of our sales," said Grupo. Jamaica has less than one tenth the population of its largest markets including Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.
Counterfeits have become such a big problem, affecting the sales potential of the local market, that the distributor has started a marketing campaign here aimed at encouraging authentic purchases. Advertisements have been running in the local press.
'Be original' the campaign challenges consumers, making a play on words with the flagship brand of Clarks Originals. It is the first campaign of its kind and indicates the growing importance of Jamaica in Grupo's regional operations.
"Not only are sales affected, but also the brand's reputation is affected since people are fooled buying Clarks shoes thinking they are original, when they are fake. Some of these shoes can damage your feet or would not last a week," said Jiménez Dutari.
"Our goal is to share with our customers this information so they can be aware of the situation and claim for the original product," she said.
Clarks remain a staple in the Jamaica culture since the 1960s.
The shoes' popularity shot up in 2010 after deejays Vybz Kartel and Popcaan in the music single titled Clarkes paid homage to the brand. The success of the Clarkes song was credited with spawning the resurgence of the youth demand for the brand formerly worn by dads and uncles.