ICONIC clothing firm Barbour is cracking down on counterfeit gangs to ensure customers buy only the genuine article.
Bosses at the world-famous South Shields-based manufacturer have employed a specialist firm to locate factories that are making copies – and shut them down.
And it has also teamed up with an expert internet security firm to try to nip counterfeit online sales in the bud.
Group finance director, Brenda Readman-Bell, said the production of fakes had risen drastically since the firm’s recent move into the fashion market, and added that Manchester was a counterfeit hotspot.
She said: “We have employed a company to go out and find where the fakes are, and the majority are in Manchester.
“We do not know how much this costs us as a company. It is very important to us that our customers are protected.”
Mrs Readman-Bell said fakes were getting harder to spot, adding: “We employ about 700 people worldwide, and we don’t want any damage to them.”
Barbour’s website lists 60 sites that sell phoney goods, which operate throughout the world, and often sell at high prices to persuade buyers they are genuine stock.
But Mrs Readman-Bell says customers, many of whom have e-mailed Barbour to warn of the dangers, often pay but receive nothing in the post.
The firm, which had a turnover in 2010 of £89.8m and pre-tax profits £11.3m, is also aware of fake buttons and belts being imported from China and used on the illegal garments.
To crack down on the counterfeit websites, Barbour has launched a new highly-praised internet intiative with Leeds-based internet security firm Search Laboratory.
The pair have launched a search marketing campaign on Google to help direct buyers to genuine sales stockists.
The move, which will see it take advantage of Google’s paid search network, will warn people of the pitfalls of buying fakes.
Steve Buck, Barbour’s managing director, said: “Protecting our customers and our brand is of paramount importance to us.
“When we suggested this unique approach to counterfeiting with Search Laboratory, they understood what we wanted to achieve and helped us develop an impactful campaign.”
Established in 1894, Barbour produces more than 130,000 hand-crafted wax jackets each year at Simonside.
Ian Harris, CEO of Search Laboratory, said: “Barbour’s approach is pioneering. Usually clients want to sell more of their products or services online.
“However, Barbour is wholly focused on maintaining its reputation as a luxury lifestyle clothing brand.
“It’s the first time I have seen a brand use search marketing in this way and we are really excited about what Barbour is trying to achieve with this innovative use of Pay Per Click marketing.”