By Katherine Masters
NEW YORK (Reuters) – As an avid fan of Lululemon, Lauren Maginness, a 31-year-old product marketer in New York City, has increasingly turned to buying affordable brand duplicates from e-commerce giant Amazon.com to complement her activewear collection.
One of her top picks are the high-waisted yoga pants by CRZ Yoga priced at $32, closely mirroring the popular $98 Align leggings by Lululemon. Maginness discovered CRZ Yoga through a TikTok influencer who was a former Lululemon employee.
Heading into the holiday shopping season, top-sellers like Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch, Birkenstock, and Tom Ford, among others, are vying for the attention of consumers like Maginness who are drawn to “dupes” popularized on TikTok – essentially replicas of higher-priced products.
CRZ Yoga is experiencing a surge in demand, selling an average of 88,633 pairs of leggings per month and registering around $2.84 million in average monthly revenue, as per data from e-commerce analytics firm Jungle Scout. CRZ, owned by a Hong Kong trading company according to its website, did not provide a comment.
The increasing demand for lookalike products, coupled with reduced spending due to inflation, is affecting the sales of some well-known, trendy products. “Dupes” have become widely accepted, particularly among younger consumers. Maginness herself noted that she would consider gifting a faux-Lululemon activewear set to a friend, remarking that there is more budget flexibility with the dupe.
Hashtag searches for dupes of major brands such as Skims and Ugg boots have garnered millions of views on TikTok. Influencers often promote similar products from retailers like Walmart, Target, and fragrance e-tailer Dossier.
Recently, “Passionate Penny Pincher,” a discount blog that earns commissions, recommended $29.99 Dearfoam shearling “Ugg dupe slippers” as holiday gifts, while Nordstrom pitched original “Ugg slippers on everyone’s gift list” for $115.
Industry experts find that it is challenging to determine how much market share dupe products may divert from the originals this holiday season. Brand-name perfumes, cosmetics, and mid-tier clothing and footwear are especially susceptible to this trend, according to Leslie Ghize, executive vice president of retail consulting firm Doneger Tobe.
In a survey from Circana Inc., 28% of U.S. consumers expressed intent to give beauty products such as perfumes as holiday gifts, and 55% are planning to give clothing, shoes, or accessories.
Lululemon, which reported an 18% revenue increase in the second quarter, conducted a two-day “dupe swap” promotion in Los Angeles, where shoppers could trade similar products for Align leggings.
According to experts, the excitement over dupes harkens back to the emergence of fast fashion, with platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba accelerating dupe sales. New technologies like the Google Lens app enable people to find similar products for sale by taking photos of items they like.
While some manufacturers use the same materials and fabrics as big-name brands, others opt for cheaper materials to increase profits. These dupe sellers, particularly on platforms like Amazon, can offer products more affordably due to lower overhead costs.
Yet, consumer dissatisfaction with dupes purchased online is prevalent, with a Trustpilot survey revealing that 30 to 49% of millennial and Gen-Z consumers have been disappointed with their purchases.
Despite Amazon’s policy against sellers using terms like “dupe,” “fake,” or “faux” connected to a brand name, violations persist, particularly in products mimicking popular styles like Birkenstock clogs.
A spokesperson for Birkenstock emphasized the company’s rigorous approach to defending its intellectual property against product piracy, but dupe sellers have grown adept at avoiding infringements.
(Reporting by Katherine Masters in New York Additional reporting by Dorothy Kam in Hong Kong; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell, Rod Nickel and Matthew Lewis)