Just to briefly touch on what I mentioned on Instagram last night: I get tagged in a lot of posts on social and I’ve recently noticed a significant shift towards favouring third party selling and discounting. ‘I got this XYZ serum from XYZ site and it was less than half price! Bargain!’
Yeah. Sorry, but probably not. I’m all for the occasional genuine bargain (see below), but the saying ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’ has never been more appropriate than in the world of discount/online shopping.
As I said last night, please, please be careful where you buy your products. You are putting these things on your face – not chucking them up your garden wall.
So what is third party/grey market?
Third Party: When a transaction is made between two entities involving a third party, for example, Amazon Marketplace is a third party. Amazon doesn’t hold the stock, the vendor does. You buy from the vendor and pay Amazon, and Amazon then pass on payment to the seller after they have taken their cut. They make it look like you’re buying from the original brand, but you’re not.
Example: this page on Amazon showing NeoStrata Peels leads you to ‘Just Care Medical’, a quick search gave me their postcode and I put that into Aestethic Source’s ‘Find a Clinic’ search function here: aestheticsource.com which shows that the official distributor of NeoStrata in the UK does indeed supply Just Care Beauty, although I don’t know if they are aware they are selling on to Amazon, because I know for a fact that NeoStrata do not sell to Amazon. They are a clinic only brand.
Classic third party scenario.
The only official beauty brands on Amazon can be found here: Amazon/LuxuryBeauty – if it’s not in that section, it’s third party. They’re very good at making you think it’s Estee Lauder, sneakily putting ‘by Estee Lauder’ in the description, but it will be a cold day in hell before any of the big five; Lauder (the entire group), Chanel, Lancome, Clarins and Clinique sell to Amazon.
Grey Market/’Official’ discounters: Legal, supposed to be non-counterfeit goods, bought unofficially (through the back door) and then sold to customers at a lower price point than the official offering, to get rid of old stock, sometimes through different countries.
Russia, India and the Middle East are rife with grey market goods. Strawberry.net is built on this model. Strawberry.net/Murad lawsuit
Two major problems here.
One, the age of the stock. If you’re buying something in old packaging, it could be 3/4/5+ years old. If you’re buying an anti-ageing serum forget it. Wasting your money.
And secondly, a lot of grey market goods are increasingly fake. Not all, but some. Your risk in this situation as a customer is the age and safety of the product. See Murad’s lawsuit for examples.
‘Official’ discounters are really just the dumping ground for unwanted goods that big brands don’t want anymore. This is where the TK/J Maxx model comes into it.
No huge multi-national brand will advertise that they are dumping their old stock via any of these channels, but they all do it. Usually in a different country, although not always.
For example, when Clinique rebranded Mild Clarifying Lotion as 1.0 Clarifying Lotion, they off-loaded all their discontinued stock in TK Maxx stores (in the UK), leading to this blog post and near stampedes into their stores by eagle-eyed readers of this blog. On that occasion it was a definite win for consumers. The stock was fresh, it was such a well-known product that we knew when the stock changeover happened, and we reacted quickly. Ditto when Emma Hardie changed her packaging. I nearly had palpitations in TK Maxx. It’s not always the situation.
Which leads me to the subject of discounting. This will sound harsh, but I say it to my kids and to myself on a regular basis, so I’m following my own mantra here, not dictating to you.
No-one has ‘the right’ to things that are out of their price range. If you can’t afford it, it’s not the responsibility of brands or retailers to ensure that you get your hands on it. I’d quite like a particular designer handbag (I’m not saying which one or I’ll be accused of asking for it), but there is no way in hell I will buy it knowing I still have two kids to finish school and a lot of mouths to feed. I don’t expect the brand to do a huge sale so that I can get my hands on one. Certain designers never go on sale, ever. They don’t want to. They don’t need to. They set their price, it’s totally their call. Their brand, their strategy, their positioning, their cost of goods. None of my business. Just because I want one doesn’t mean I’ll get it. That’s ok. I’ll survive.
It’s exactly the same in the beauty industry. Somewhere along the line, the internet has made us think that anything and everything should be available to us on the cheap. It’s our right to have what we want. ‘I hope I can afford to buy one of those one day!’ has become ‘I want it right now and what discounts are going because I refuse to pay you what you say it’s worth.’
Good, affordable, skincare and makeup is widely available through multiple outlets. We have more options than ever before. If the customer keeps demanding cheaper goods, it will come at a price. Brands will have to cut costs everywhere, use cheaper, less-effective ingredients and pay their staff less.
We need to stop demanding that brands cheapen their products and services in a way that you would be outraged were the same demanded of you.
*Just for the record I’ve never sold anything sent to me. It all goes to charity. Always has, always will.