How to spot a knock-off with the real brand attached?
January 8, 2012 12:44 PM   Subscribe

What are examples of big-name brands who separately manufacture cheaper/shoddier lines and put their labels onto them?

I was reading this link (in this AskMe post) about the Snapper mower brand and how Walmart asked them to consider creating a separately-manufactured cheap line with the Snapper label. The article cites Levi Strauss as an example of this. So I wondered what other big names do this: how often have I thought I'd gotten a cheap deal on something when it was actually an inferior product? Is there a handy list out there of these manufacturers and where they sell to, or a way to tell the difference between the "actual" branded product and the outsourced product? (For added bonus points, which of these are sold in New Zealand?)
posted by tracicle to Shopping (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Lexus/Toyota/Scion, Infiniti/Nissan, Acura/Honda--like that?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2012

Almost all designers do stuff like this. Usually there is a slightly different name, e.g. "Marc by Marc Jacbos."

Many wine makers do this sort of thing too with their "second label" wines, such as Decoy (by Duckhorn), etc.

Instrument makers do this too, e.g. Mexican Strats vs. American Strats.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:48 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and my wife swears Kitchen Aid mixers and such sold at Williams-Sonoma are better quality than the ones sold at cheaper stores, but I have nothing to back that up.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2012

As an extension of your question, many electronics manufacturers make a separate line specifically for Wal-Mart...they simply can't produce the "high-end" versions at Wal-Mart prices so they make a cheaper version, usually identifiable by a similar product number, but it'll have a "W" in it somewhere.
posted by um_maverick at 12:53 PM on January 8, 2012

Not an inferior version, unless you're baselessly opinionated, but Miller and Coors are the same company.
posted by cmoj at 12:57 PM on January 8, 2012

The description of Levi's doing so is here, and pretty much covers the technique. "Signature by Levi's at Walmart", I think it's called.
posted by ambrosen at 1:01 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Many brands have stuff they only sell at their outlet stores now. It used to be where the sold the stuff that no one wanted but they got so popular that now they manufacture cheaper stuff just for the outlet stores.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:19 PM on January 8, 2012

Gymboree (children's clothing) makes cheaper knockoffs of their own clothes for the outlet store - i.e. a similar dress to the one you saw in the mall, but in blue instead of pink and made of thinner fabric.

Liz Claiborne has a series of increasingly downmarket clothing lines as you go down the retailer food chain.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:45 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Any "house" brand or generic brand will often be made by the same companies that manufacture higher end, higher profit gear. For example, Costco's Kirkland Signature products or all of the Trader Joe's brand products. In this case, the "low end" products can actually be better deals for you in more ways than just price -- they're often qualitatively just as good.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:51 PM on January 8, 2012

magnetsphere: "Many brands have stuff they only sell at their outlet stores now. It used to be where the sold the stuff that no one wanted but they got so popular that now they manufacture cheaper stuff just for the outlet stores."

Yes. I know Gap does this, as well as Coach.

Also, there are the designer collaborations with mass-market or discount stores. Examples: Simply Vera Vera Wang (at Kohl's), Nicole by Nicole Miller (at JC Penney) and limited time things like Missoni for Target, Norma Kamali for Wal-Mart, and Karl Lagerfeld for H & M.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:02 PM on January 8, 2012

...but they got so popular that now they manufacture cheaper stuff just for the outlet stores.

Yep. Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack are like this. They don't go out of there way to draw attention to it, but The Rack has a lot of stuff made for sale at The Rack; though there is still a lot of close-out stuff from Nordstrom that ends up there too. Returns and such.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:07 PM on January 8, 2012

Anything sold at an outlet store is like this - it's very obvious at stores like the Gap and Banana Republic that the outlet clothing is inferior.

But there's also the example of Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy selling at different price points and being owned by the same company. Same as Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor Loft which I think also owns Limited/Express.

Also, a lot of brands that have their own stores will sell inferior quality items to department stores. The Lucky Jeans you can buy at Macy's are not as nice as the ones bought directly from the Lucky Jeans store.

And Whirlpool, I think, makes the appliances for IKEA.

Even makeup companies do it - L'Oreal sells at drugstores and that company owns Lancome which sells at department stores. Their items are often quite similar (lip glosses, for example).
posted by echo0720 at 2:17 PM on January 8, 2012

This is somewhat related and I can't find the specific links, but sites like Gilt Groupe have been known to buy items that didn't meet the manufacturer's standards or were intentionally made poorly for less and advertise them (and their MSRP) as the real deal.

Sometimes they will ship the right item, but in a different color or with some unmentioned quirk without notifying the buyer. Not sure if this is because they never had the item in the photo to begin with or if because of their business model and the ineptitude of their software, they sell out of a product before the user confirms the sale and they attempt to fulfill it hoping they won't complain.

I've also noticed, like some other retailers, that Gilt is really picky about the photos on the site making the pieces look better than they are. I've generally been okay with the differences, but now anytime I shop at places with time restrictions on their sales, I look for the same product on other sites because their photos are less post-productioned and tend to show how poorly the item fits, the actual colors, different angles that highlight flaws in the design, etc.
posted by june made him a gemini at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2012

From personal experience, Speedo women's bathing suits at Costco. They do not hold up as well in an indoor pool as Speedo suits bought elsewhere. Also John Deere lawnmowers from Home Depot are cheaper but a much lower quality than those sold in smaller stores.
posted by mermayd at 2:38 PM on January 8, 2012

Burton Snowboards bought a cheaper/lower market snowboard company to get into big box retailers without degrading their brand.
posted by k8t at 2:48 PM on January 8, 2012

Another example of the clearly labeled low and high quality brands - Bosch and skill are both made by the same company. Bosch is the high end line and skill is the weekend warrior brand. One of the woodworking magazines cut a Bosch and Skill router in half with a water jet cutter a few years ago for an article where they showed the differences in manufacturing standards for a high end and economy grade tool. (They picked that brand so as not to be picking on anyone.)

For the most part, high end manufacturers (like Snapper) who haven't suffered some sort of head injury (like buying into the cult of "pleasing the investor") will be pretty resistant to brand degradation, or will go out of their way to make it obvious that there's a Cadillac a then there's a Chevy and which one you're buying.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:53 PM on January 8, 2012

For clothing, I think the term most often used is "brand diffusion", which makes it difficult to find the good quality without some amount of research. Most of the "high-end" off the rack clothing manufacturers do this (Ralph Lauren Purple Label/Ralph Lauren/Polo).

I was just looking at the All Clad website after another AskMe thread mentioned Emerilware was identical to All Clad but for a fraction of the price. The only information the website provides is that true All Clad is made in America from American-sourced materials, while Emerilware is made in China. No clue what differences that might introduce.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:01 PM on January 8, 2012

Brooks Brothers do this with the outlet thing. Their outlet brand is 346, which is prominent on the clothing tags. The material they use is noticeably different from their normal shirts.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:39 PM on January 8, 2012

Googling magazine Bosch SkilSaw "water jet" doesn't do the trick. KC, can you remember any specifics?
posted by at 3:54 PM on January 8, 2012

Chanel makes Bourjois cosmetics.
posted by KateViolet at 4:01 PM on January 8, 2012

Schwinn makes two different ranges of bikes, both branded as Schwinn--one for bike shops and the other for Wal-Mart/Target/etc.

(Ludicrously, there even seem to be two Schwinn Varsity lines. The plain 'Varsity' sold at Wal-Mart and the other the 'Varsity CF' sold elsewhere.)
posted by hoyland at 5:32 PM on January 8, 2012

General and General International with General international being the lesser quality (though still better than average) brand.
posted by Mitheral at 5:54 PM on January 8, 2012

The innards of well-known brand-name plumbing supplies (and I'd bet a whole lot of other things) are made of inferior quality materials (e.g. not copper) if they're slated to be sold at Lowe's/Home Depot. That's how they're able to sell them at cheaper prices. If they have any internal way of coding for this, I'm not aware of it, but two plumbers explained the business about piping and parts to me; I've heard similar stories about lumber sold at major chain stores, being less well-aged.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:12 PM on January 8, 2012

No, and I actually looked to see if I could find it. I'll go digging in my magazine rack to see if I can find it. Once you cut 'em in half the differences were pretty obvious.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:02 PM on January 8, 2012

Kenmore and Whirlpool are the same company. Kenmore for Sears/Kmart. Whirlpool--for everyone. (although to me, Kenmore is a decent brand; love our fridge).
posted by stormpooper at 8:01 AM on January 9, 2012

A lot of brands make crappier versions of their products for big box stores like Walmart. Oh also Relic watches are made by Fossil.
posted by radioamy at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2012

The opposite of this is when a brand makes the *same* thing, puts another label on it and sells it for less. As of 7 or 8 years ago, Whirlpool washers and dryers were relabled as Roper (with a cheaper looking backsplash and wheel control) and sold for much less money. Not sure if this is still the case, but it was a few years back.
posted by cnc at 11:21 AM on January 9, 2012

Armani vs Armani Exchange
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:10 PM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everyone -- they all answered the question so I'll mark it as resolved.
posted by tracicle at 3:15 PM on January 17, 2012

« Older "give a talk"-style technical interview   |   Dance When There's Nothing But A Slow Glowing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.