Birkenstock Demands Retailers Boycott Copycats

Rise of the Counterfeits

Companies with proprietary designs are struggling against a multitude of copycats, some of which have even shown up on the shelves of companies like Nordstrom (JWN). Although Birkenstock holds design patents and trademarks, the company has found look-alike shoes being offered by competitors like Mephisto. Rusty Hall, chief executive of Mephisto, denies the claims and asserts that Birkenstock is engaged in “competitive bullying.”

In an effort to protect its brand and retain market share, Birkenstock has joined other retailers such as Nike (NKE) and Chanel in putting pressure on retailers to keep counterfeits off their shelves. Chanel took the cause one step further and sued online retailer The RealReal (REAL), which it accused of selling counterfeits.

Birkenstock Gets a Makeover

Iconic German brand Birkenstock, which dates back to 1774, recently got refreshed. Sometimes thought of as gangly and almost orthopedic footwear, the company’s designs recently got the attention of fashion powerhouses, Celine, Givenchy, and Manolo Blahnik.

Its traditional leather sandals that retail for about $130 now have more fashionable siblings that run for upwards of $800 per pair. Manolo Blahnik’s version comes in velvet with a crystal buckle, which is quite a departure from the original sandal’s cork-latex soles and wide leather straps.

Soon You Won’t Find Them on Amazon

Manufacturers like Birkenstock are offering their products to only a limited number of retailers. Amazon (AMZN) and other third-party marketplaces are not welcome distributors of their products. Birkenstock Americas chief executive David Kahan expressed plans to prohibit the sale of its products on Amazon beginning in August 2022. Nike made a similar move in 2019. Both Nordstrom and Zappos have yielded to Birkenstocks demands by limiting their purchase of certain styles.

As the copycat crackdown continues, consumers who have their hearts set on certain brands and styles may have to do a little more work to find them.

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