Every fashion business owner might have to deal with copycat competitors at some point. This is why you must be prepared to handle them before you have need to. Imagine all the time and effort it takes you to create a collection only for someone to steal your designs. Apart from them profiting off your sweat, they make your designs less exclusive and give it at a much cheaper rate in order to sway potential customers. This doesn’t only go to design copycats. Sometime last year, one of my assistants pointed out a fashion education platform just like mine and we noticed that they had be copying all our content for months!
While I understand the whole concept of taking someone’s content that is helpful, re-purposing it and giving it a spin in your own unique way, this wasn’t that. It was simply copy and paste and it addressed its members the exact way I addressed my members.
Sometimes it is photos, you work with photographers to shoot as many looks as you can or even take flat lay photos and someone uses it to promote their own products in the exact way you did yours. Copycats competitors come in many forms. And they are quite frankly annoying to deal with. You may like to console yourself that you must be doing something right for them to copy you, you have to treat this like what it is- bad news. Don’t take it as flattery or you might wake up one day and copycats have put you out of business!
I can imagine you asking “but what can I do to deal with them, Toyosi?”
I’ve got you sis, that’s why I am writing this. No one will profit off your sweat in 2020!
STEPS TO DEAL WITH COPYCAT COMPETITORS IN YOUR FASHION BUSINESS
1. MAKE YOUR WORK STAND OUT
It will be easier to copy your designs if you make low quality products. Copycat competitors usually don’t want to spend time or money creating for the market because they don’t put in as much heart as you do. It will be rather difficult for your customers to tell the difference when your products don’t stand out quality-wise. However, some ways you can make your products standout are listed below;
- Watermark your images: Whether they are flat-lays you took with your phone or you hired a professional photographer, it is important that you watermark your images to make it difficult for copycats to use your images to promote the designs they copied from you. This will also help your customers know for sure that the product they are purchasing is yours and of a good quality.
- Brand your products: When you brand your products, your customers will easily identify with your brand by recognizing your logo etc.
- Point out the differences between your products and the ones from copycats to help your customers make the right decision always.
2. CHOOSE YOUR MANUFACTURER wisely
Not any kind of person can be your manufacturer. An untrustworthy manufacturer might just be the one exposing your designs to copycat competitors. They might either be reselling them or producing for themselves to sell on the side. This is bad for business so you have to have contracts in place to ensure that they are held liable if they get caught doing funny business. However, you have to totally avoid this by working only with trust worthy manufacturers.
Needless to say, copycats are not fools. They are often willing to make your manufacturers mouth-watering offers to convince them to share your designs. The more reason why a trust-worthy manufacturer is your best bet.
3. APPROACH COPYCATS FACE TO FACE (if POSSIBLE)
This can be done by you or your lawyer. I feel it is better to put it in writing (an email can do). Let them know that you have noticed that they are copying your designs (which is your intellectual property). Politely (but firmly) ask them to stop and let them know that you are willing to take legal action if need be. This works a lot of times to keep them in check and the mention of legal action mostly scares them off. More reason why it is important to protect your designs legally. Sometimes, just letting a copycat competitor know that you’re on to them can scare them off regardless of if you mention legal action or not.
4. PROTECT YOUR DESIGNS legally
It is important to trademark your fashion business even early on. A lot of small fashion businesses today think they are too small to do so and this gives copycats all the leverage that they need. This article by Nigerian Law Today explains the concept of protecting your fashion business legally. You should also consider registering individual designs (your masterpiece) to protect your hard work from copycats. This article will also teach you step by step what it takes to register a design in Nigeria.
5. DON’T TAKE IT to heart
Copycats in the fashion industry are more common that you may know. In fact, even top brands also have their fair share of copycats. The reason why there’s the onitsha version of Gucci. So you might want to consider ignoring them if they don’t pose a threat. I say this because it might cost you more time and money prosecuting a copycat than you know.
However, the easiest thing to do is monitor them and discover where they are getting your designs. This way you can seal the loophole and move on. You’d want to note the copycats competitors that release your designs almost the same time you release your collection because it will greatly affect your sales. But if their release was way after your launch, it would have less impact on your sales.
6. DON’T FIGHT DIRTY
I know. I know. They deserve to be dragged online for profiting off your hard work. They really have no shame. Howbeit, you should never fight dirty and try to destroy them online or offline. Your reputation is much more important and you shouldn’t stoop to their level. You are bigger than that. Instead, let your customers know what’s going on (not in a spiteful manner) so they don’t fall a victim and buy fake products.
Copycats competitors can be a pain in the ass. There’s no way to sugar coat it because it is not a nice feeling. However, these 6 strategies will surely help you deal with copycat competitors in your fashion business.
Let’s talk in the comments. Have you ever been hit by a copycat? How did you handle the situation?