For better or worse, our industry is certainly one of trends. Looking back on 2015, there were many beneficial trends, but unfortunately some were downright disturbing. One recurring theme that we saw really begin to impact the U.S. market earlier this year was a massive influx of knock-off or counterfeit products, priced at pennies-on-the-dollar compared to their authentic counterparts.

From vaporizer pens, to titanium nails, to some of the most sought after designs in the world of heady functional glass, the floodgates from China seemed to have been kicked wide open this past Spring, and artists, manufacturers, distributors, retail shop owners, and their customers have all felt the effects.

When a deal seems to be “too good to be true” in the business world, it usually isn’t a true deal. The question is: when you are solicited with an ad for a product that you know is a knock-off, that you know is incredibly underpriced, and that you know was not manufactured up to the standards that your customers expect, do you take that offer?

Obviously, this dilemma existed way before the spring of 2015. American businesses have been watching their life’s work get counterfeited by foreign exporters for decades. Televisions, t-shirts, toys, you name it and China and Taiwan have been making it cheaper for as long as you can remember, right?

Last year, Grenco Science battled constantly as huge shipping containers full of underpriced and obviously counterfeit G Pen Vaporizers hit the ports in Long Beach. Instead of recognizing the readily apparent lack of quality and low prices for the scam that they were, too many shop owners made the decision to support the Chinese counterfeit culture by purchasing these knock-off vape pens. Every kit they sold had no warranty attached and could very easily pose a health risk to the end user…but they saved a few dollars per kit, and that was apparently enough for them.

As wholesale and retail outlets, we have an obligation – I dare say a moral obligation – to make sure that our customers are well-informed. Similarly, U.S. manufacturers feel an obligation to create products up to a certain standard while providing jobs and a safe and productive work environment for American workers.

Our obligation is to educate our customers on the benefits of higher quality products. Your customers give you their trust, so you must not forget the many long-term consequences of sticking them with potentially harmful products for the short term goal of making a few extra dollars. Use that as your selling point – the fact that you care.

Another prime example of the “trend-towards-cheap” is in the e-nail – or electronic nail – sector of the industry. E-nails became a very hot commodity towards the end of 2014 and into 2015, as companies like Errlectric and D-Nail cornered the high end market for the connoisseur’s top choices. With retail price tags ranging anywhere from $500-$800, sales continued to skyrocket throughout the 1st quarter of 2015, but then dropped.

Once again, it was around this time that the market was flooded with a mix of DIY/garage-built options, or straight up knock-offs direct from China – priced, of course, at a fraction of the leading brands on the market.

As 2015 comes to a close, we are still seeing the negative impact that this has had, as retail customers who were more than happy to walk out of a smoke shop with a super cheap e-nail found themselves returning to the shop they got it from soon thereafter, only to be disgruntled when they learned that the warranty is bogus and the shop cannot help them with their new $200 paper weight.

An e-nail brand like Errlectic, on the other hand, is made in the USA, not just assembled in the USA. Even its microprocessor is made here. They offer a corporate-backed 3-year warranty, and included in its wide range of great selling points is the fact that it is the only UL Listed electronic nail on the market today.

Why does this matter? Is it worth the price?

As a store owner, imagine a customer buys a new garage-built or China import $200 e-nail from your store. They take it home and act like a fool and start a fire in their home or apartment building. The fire department arrives and determines that the poorly fabricated e-nail was the source of the fire. The insurance company can’t get any money out of your customer, so they look to the manufacturer. If that manufacturer is just some local who made you a sweet deal on some nail heaters he built himself, or some fly-by-night outfit in Shanghai, there’s a good chance they won’t have the money that the insurance company is after either. That leaves you, the retailer. It can happen.

Now imagine the peace of mind knowing that just like every lava lamp, toaster oven, TV, and Xbox in your customers’ homes, the Errlectric e-nail that you offer to them is UL Listed and safe. What is that worth to you?

Are all imports evil? Of course not.

Many of the most important tools and accessories that we use on a day to day basis were built elsewhere and imported here. Whether you use those products yourself, or proudly display them on your shelf, there is absolutely no shame in that.

But anytime we knowingly support a company – foreign or domestic – that is clearly counterfeiting an established brand or product, we fail our industry. And anytime we knowingly sell products who’s very pricing reveals the lack of quality control and health standards that we would demand for ourselves, we fail our customers.

Whether or not you believe in making New Year’s Resolutions, 2016 is a great time to clear the slate and make a vow to yourself, your store, and your customers, that you will only carry authentic brands from authorized manufacturers and distributors.

Together, we can set a positive trend for 2016 and beyond. SVBS

HEADSHOT2Jack “Guru” Riordan is the Senior Account Manager at Masterminded Distribution. Jack brings well over a decade of high level sales and marketing experience to the table. Jack can be reached  by phone at 949.420.0507, or by email at [email protected], or visit their website at www.master-minded.com.