Prom season is the time when excitable teenagers and their parents visit businesses - both local and online - in search of showy, expensive gowns and tuxedos for the end-of-the-year celebration with their friends. This time of year can be a major boon for businesses in need of a little extra profit, but many teens' dollars are going elsewhere as they seek more affordable options, though often, they end up getting a lot less than what they hoped for.
In recent months, many teenage girls preparing for one of the more anticipated events of their high school careers ordered prom gowns online, only to find that the stitching was itchy, the color was off and the material felt cheap. Counterfeiters recognize there's plenty of money in prom gowns, especially as the popular tradition spreads from America to other countries like the U.K.
Prom dress: Some assembly required
Alexandra Marschall, a student, told TODAY that she had worked for months to save up money for a Sherri Hill dress for her own prom. She found the dress she had been looking for at a 25 percent discount - it was $400 in the store - and couldn't resist the deal.
She was excited she found such a great deal for the beautiful, bead-covered dress from one of the more desirable prom-gown designers. What she received was an oversized, cheap knock-off dress that wasn't the right color or material, and a bag full of plastic beads with a sewing kit.
"I took a step back and said, 'Do they expect me to sew this on? I'm a teenage girl. I do not know how to sew,'" Marschall recounted to the news outlet.
The fakes just keep on coming
Dusty Hill, the president of Sherri Hill, explained to TODAY that counterfeiters selling knock-off prom gowns online is a big problem that is getting worse. The counterfeiters save pictures of real gowns from Google Images, then upload them to their websites to try and pass fake dresses off as genuine to teens shopping for prom. And when companies and investigators shut down one site selling fake gowns, another one pops up. Stopping the counterfeiters from trying to pass off their shoddily-made products as real is near-impossible, according to Hill.
Girls such as Marschall will find a dress they like in a shop, such as the beaded one she thought she purchased, and go online to hunt it down at a discount. When they order their gowns, they expect them to come from legitimate businesses, such as Sherri Hill. However, when teens purchase a knock-off, they waste money, Sherri Hill loses out on profit and the girls often have to find a replacement dress last minute, which can prove costly and stressful - not ideal ahead of prom.
Guaranteeing product authenticity
If the deals online are too good to be real, then chances are they're not real. Too often, though, girls in search of what is supposed to be the second-most beautiful gown they will ever wear - after their wedding dresses - end up with probably the worst item of clothing they've ever purchased, or close to it.
To ensure that sales aren't getting cannibalized by counterfeit products, prom dress manufacturers should utilize a variety of brand integrity techniques including online brand protection and product authentication. Guarantors of legitimacy such as these help manufacturers and retailers subvert the efforts of knock-off distributors. They also help make sure that soon-to-be high school graduates are getting the prom gowns they dreamed of, rather than dresses that they could have made themselves.