In an effort to protect its retail partners and keep the brand positioned as premium, Le Creuset is taking new initiatives in order to combat unauthorized retailers on the Internet. This includes unauthorized sellers on Amazon as well as eBay and other marketplace sites.
According to Jarrod Daughtry, senior sales and trade marketing manager at Le Creuset, unauthorized sellers pose a variety of issues to brand recognition and future brand growth.
Daughtry explained that unauthorized sellers have the tendency to violate the manufacturer’s minimum advertised pricing (MMAP) policy, can be scamming those who purchase product and do not have the authority to offer warranties that authorized sellers do.
“Having unauthorized retailers on the Internet can really impact one’s brand and can make it harder for premium brands to maintain their position in the future,” he said. “This effort means a lot to our true retail partners and it also means a lot to consumers because they are not getting all of the same benefits or the service they would get if they purchased from an authorized Le Creuset retailer. If a customer has an issue or a question, often there is no one to ask and, in most cases, they can’t even return a product to the unauthorized retailer they purchased it from.”
In order to maximize its efforts, Le Creuset has created a dedicated team committed to brand protection. Daughtry noted that the company has had approximately an 87% success rate when it comes to shutting down unauthorized sellers. From February 2016 to the present date, Le Creuset has shut down more than 306 unauthorized sellers, leaving less than 40 to combat, he said.
“We have always protected our brand, but now we have invested specifically in a team to do it. We are really excited about it and it shows in the level of resources we are putting behind it and the success we are having,” said Daughtry. “We’ve had this re-focus on brand protection and we are making investments behind the scenes in order to protect our customers, our retail partners and ourselves.”
Daughtry said that the team searches an extensive list of websites and conducts test buys, which he noted is often a cumbersome activity. However, it has lead the company to make some tough calls when it comes to who remains authorized to sell Le Creuset housewares, as the company has found some authorized dealers also re-selling goods as an unauthorized seller.
However, he added, this has also allowed Le Creuset to re-evaluate those selling its housewares in order to help it maintain its brand identity. Daughtry explained that in April 2016, the number of MMAP breaks occurring per day was 248 amongst both unauthorized and authorized resellers. As of December 2016, the number dropped drastically to 46, an 82% reduction in the number of daily MMAP violations.
“This initiative is really about protecting our brand, enforcing our MMAP policy and reinforcing our terms and conditions. We have been able to make huge strides and this also helps our authorized sellers who sell our brand the right way,” he noted.
However, there are several challenges with ensuring that the procedures put in place continue to see success. For example, Daughtry said that no two unauthorized sellers act the same way. To combat that, Le Creuset works directly with online marketplaces in order to have illegal product listings removed.
“We have lists and are very adamant about who should be on there and who shouldn’t. We have worked very closely with sites like Amazon in order to have unauthorized sellers removed because they are selling our product illegally,” Daughtry said.
Daughtry also explained that while most of these listings are happening in the U.S., the company is also fighting this battle internationally. He said that international re-sellers are attempting to sell Le Creuset products back to the U.S. market in an unauthorized way. The company has since stepped up its efforts, and shut down more than 10 of those international sellers, which is a victory since international re-sellers are difficult to combat.
“We are a premium global brand so we have legal coverage everywhere,” he said. While counterfeits have been an issue with the U.S.-based housewares industry, Daughtry said that Le Creuset has seen more knock-off products than counterfeits. The company is also taking strides to remove those from the market when possible.
“There are a lot of impersonators out there, more than ever before. They try to knock-off our iconic designs, replicate our gradated color palette, and in some cases even have a name that’s very similar our brand name,” he said.