As inflation rates continue to rise, retailers face the relentless challenge of providing consumers with more affordable price points for products they both want and need. But instead of calling a less expensive version of a brand name product a knockoff, a fake or a cheaper alternative, a younger cohort of consumers has decided to give it a trendy name — a dupe.
Dupes are the more affordable option to high-end products and come at a fraction of the cost, making them attractive to consumers who are looking for alternatives. Fakes, on the other hand, are products that are designed to look exactly like a higher-end product, often with logos or branding that is identical or very similar.
The intention behind dupes is to offer an option for consumers who may not be able to afford the higher-end product. The intention behind fakes is to deceive consumers into thinking they are buying a genuine product when they are not.
Dupes are legal as long as they do not infringe on any trademarks or patents. Fakes, on the other hand, are illegal because they violate trademark laws and are often produced and sold without the consent of the trademark owner.
Dupes aim to offer similar results to the higher-end products. Fakes, on the other hand, are often made with lower quality materials and don’t perform as well as the genuine product.
With inflation still impacting consumer wallets, many are looking to dupes to save money. This trend is particularly evident in the beauty and fashion industries.
A great example is consumers looking for alternatives to the Dyson Airwrap, which retails for $599.99. A quick Google search for “Dyson Airwrap dupe” lists as the first alternative the Shark FlexStyle Air Drying & Styling System, which retails for $299.99.
The dupe trend has become a huge topic of discussion, especially on social media platforms, and it’s a trend that brands can benefit from.
“For influencers who are disparaging one product in favor of another, it could be just a sales tactic,” Brad Klontz, a certified financial planner and financial psychologist, said in an interview.
Take TikToker @kayli.boyle who did a hair tutorial using the Shark FlexStyle Air Drying & Styling System and captioned the video “$200 compared to the $600 Dyson.” The video gained over 1.4 million likes and received comments like “as a Dyson user this looks so much better” and “Shark vacuums are better than Dyson too.”
“Influencers may also be mentioning a specific brand to try to position themselves to get a brand deal in the future,” Klontz said.
Dupes do, however, go beyond the beauty and fashion industry. Think about when private label consumer packaged goods were viewed as the cheaper alternative. While the view may have not necessarily changed, retailers are now looking to invest more in their own product line — it’s not only a bid to battle inflation, but also a tactic to keep consumers spending and keep them for the long haul.
Kroger, for one, is focusing on its private-label offerings, launching new products and marketing its brands to shoppers.
“The Our Brands portfolio allows us to offer exciting products at great value while driving incremental sales and improving margins. Our Brands’ quality and value proposition is especially important when inflation is affecting so many of our customers’ lives,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen told analysts on a call March 2. “We will continue expanding Our Brands to more categories with innovative product offerings.”
Grocers’ efforts to promote lower-priced alternatives seem to be paying off, as many consumers have opted for them over name-brand products. PYMNTS research finds that 69% of consumers have made changes to their grocery shopping habits over the last year to combat rising prices. Thirty-five percent have switched to buying cheaper, lower-quality groceries.
Then there’s Dollar General, which plans to increase its private brand offerings across various categories and will be offering fresh produce across 5,000 of its stores by the end of 2023 — and plans to increase that footprint to 10,000 in the coming years.
“We’re seeing shopping behaviors indicative of this environment,” Jeff Owen, chief executive officer, said with the company’s latest earnings report March 16. “We continue to see customers shift spending to more affordable options, including our private brands, which represent more than 20% of our total sales within consumables. Private brand growth, both in absolute dollars and penetration, was the highest in the fourth quarter.”
The surge in demand for private-label goods has prompted major brands and retailers like Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola, Albertsons and Walmart to take note of the trend in recent months.
The rise of dupes and private labels is having a significant impact on the retail industry. Retailers are increasingly recognizing that consumers are looking for affordable alternatives to high-end products and are responding by introducing their own lines of dupes, which allows them to capture a share of the market that would otherwise be lost to low-cost competitors.
However, the rise of dupes is not without its challenges. Retailers must balance the demand for affordable products with the need to maintain brand integrity and quality. Additionally, there is a risk of legal action from high-end brands that feel their intellectual property is being infringed upon.
In order to adapt to changing consumer behavior, retailers must be agile and responsive. This means being open to new product lines and strategies that cater to the demand for affordable products. One approach is to partner with low-cost manufacturers to produce high-quality dupes that are comparable to high-end brands.
Another approach is to develop in-house lines of dupes that allow retailers to maintain control over the quality and integrity of their products. This approach can be particularly effective for retailers that have strong brand recognition and a loyal customer base.