The recently announced seizure of 40 fake Winnipeg Jets hockey jerseys from an air shipment originating in China has shown the spotlight on China's vast imitation goods infrastructure. These weren't silk-screen t-shirts, by the way - Canada Border Services and the RCMP estimate the retail value of the ersatz cargo at $12,000 ($300 each) if sold as authentic, game-ready Jets jerseys at the team's official store.
What's odd about this episode is the fact that nobody except the team's owner, True North Sports & Entertainment, knows exactly what the Jets' new jerseys look like. Sure, the logos have been announced but TNSE has been holding back the complete uniform design, preferring to make the unveiling part of a planned event to take place “maybe next week,” according to Winnipeg Jets spokesman Scott Brown.
“At that point,” Brown stated, “the public will see the difference” between authentic Jets jerseys and the knockoffs currently offered online. And offered they are: Chinese sales sites such as Alibaba boast a number of Winnipeg Jets hockey jersey listings in both Home and Away colors (left and right); or what they assume those colors and patterns will be. Priced at under $60 each (well under in some cases) plus shipping, the knock-off Jets jerseys are close enough to the real thing for more than a few Winnipeg Jets fans.
“I have bought a few of these knock offs,” commented one such buyer at the Winnipeg Sun website. “They look fantastic. I'm not on the real team, so I can wear a fake. If the Jets ever ask me to suit up, then I may have to buy a real one. Who cares if they're fake or not. You wear them to a game, and then take them off. Wash them once a year, what the heck.”
Therein lies the problem for manufacturers of branded items and sports memorabilia marketers such as Gerald Haasbeek (above) of Royal Sports in Winnipeg: the fakes are often interchangeable with the real thing. It's no surprise, really, when one considers the good goods and the bad goods are often BOTH made in China, possibly at the same factories when production lines may run off extra items after hours.
As for the Winnipeg Jets, “Jerseygate” may be just the tip of the iceberg. Once the official Jets jerseys are finally unveiled to the public (below), retailers won't have stock to sell for several weeks, perhaps more.
“There will be that window, which, unfortunately, the counterfeit producers will try to take advantage of because they will (know) what the authentic jersey looks like for that period,” admitted Scott Brown. “It just will come down to a matter of people wanting to have it right now, or wanting to have the right thing. That will be a choice that people have to make.”
On that score, Chinese clothing manufacturers are already placing their bets on impatient sports fans voting with their wallets. (via Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun)