Marketing

What is The Gray Market, and How to Protect Against it?

Three things could be confused with one another: the gray market, gray economy, and gray securities. Here we are talking about gray market products rather than gray securities or the gray economy. Gray securities are shares of a corporation traded before being publicly distributed. At the same time, the gray economy is made of assets and services that elude state taxation.

1. So, what is the gray market?

Anti-counterfeit items that are sold legitimately but outside sanctioned distribution ways are called gray market goods. It hurts the brand and violates the intellectual property protection of any business. The gray market includes everything from vehicles and cameras to software and medicines. The gray market has been running for a long time. To quickly explain it, let’s take a more straightforward example.

The first thing that a manufacturer or brand does is sell a product to a distributor. After that, the distributor sells it to accredited retail shops. Subsequently, those outlets sell the product to buyers. Although this might be a way to sell anti-counterfeit items, it still hurts a brand. In a perfect system, the precise quantity of products would be produced and put up for retail, hoping that the public would purchase all of it.

Nevertheless, the reality is a bit different. If a merchant or retailer is left with surplus or old stock, they can sell it at slashed rates to other traders. This violates intellectual property protection, but some merchants still chose to sell surplus stock to such dealers.

These traders later market the store to the public at further discounted prices. And it is way easier to fool the public because unauthorized sellers often look the same to customers as authorized sellers. The only noticeable contrast is lower costs. But these traders can’t provide company warranties. And some of the products might not satisfy regulatory criteria for the country in which they are being sold.

Sometimes the brands or distributors supply the gray market themselves. However, brands usually refrain from doing so as it hurts their reputation and helps those retailers who sell counterfeit items.

2. How to protect against the gray market?

The first step is to identify unapproved dealers. Knowing who is running the gray market is the key to stopping them. And the best way to monitor the gray market dealers is to look for the products at lower prices than the official retailers or sites. For brands, they must watch the MAP of the products. Most of the MAP violators are often connected to the gray market.

Secondly, the brands must educate their consumers about the official stores’ sites. While advertising and marketing products, the brands can easily throw in the knowledge and importance of buying the products from original and authorized stores and locations. Consumer education helps offline and online brand protection, allows customers to purchase anti-counterfeit and authentic products, and gives the customer a warranty.

If the brand spots gray market retailers, they can send a cease-and-desist letter. It serves as a prelude for the subsequent legal actions that the brand can take in case the dealer doesn’t stop selling unsanctioned products. The brands can take legal steps because they violate intellectual property protection and MAP violations, including many other offenses.

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