Birkenstock Accuses Amazon Of ‘Modern Day Piracy’
4 years ago | News|
As Amazon makes its move to push further into the fashion space, many independent brands and retailers are understandably upset. But in the ongoing saga that is Amazon vs everyone else, it seems no one is feeling quite so impassioned as Birkenstock USA chief executive David Kahan. Formerly a major account of Amazon’s, Birkenstock stopped selling to the retail behemoth earlier this year because of a rise in counterfeit products. And now it seems that Amazon has somehow found a way to get the sandals back on the site (likely via backchannels), causing Kahan to write a scathing, five-page email that was obtained by The Washington Post last week.
In the email, Kahan derides Amazon for contacting shop owners and offering to buy their products at full price. His message to shop owners? Don’t even think about selling Birkenstocks to Amazon. “Birkenstock does NOT sell [to] Amazon,” he wrote in the email to retail partners. “And it is clear that they are seeking back-channel means by which to obtain our brand.” Kahan goes on to call the move a “desperate act” and a “PERSONAL AFFRONT.”
In response, the German shoemaker is now prohibiting shop owners from selling, distributing or shipping its products to resellers. “I will state clearly, any authorized retailer who may do this for even a single pair will be closed FOREVER,” Kahan wrote. “I repeat, FOREVER.” He added that the company is also considering legal action against Amazon.com for “knowingly encouraging a breach of our policy.”
In response to the email, a spokeswoman for Amazon said the company buys products from third-party businesses to offer customers “a wider selection of great brands,” and that those sellers can opt out at any time. She declined to comment on Kahan’s complaint specifically, but said that “Amazon strives to provide our customers with the largest selection, at the lowest price, and with the fastest delivery.”
Kahan begs to differ, though, saying, “this is modern-day piracy on the high seas. This is a middle finger to all brands, not just Birkenstock.” He argues that not only could this kind of thing tarnish a brand’s reputation, but it also allows Amazon to control how and where a company’s products are sold.
Formerly one of the America’s largest sellers of Birkenstocks, Amazon clearly wields a great deal of power in this current retail landscape. Especially as other major brands like Nike, Samsung, Sears, Microsoft and Bose all announce that they will begin selling direct to Amazon. Independent businesses are already under enough threat as it is — with foreign labour, low cost expectations and breakneck pace all threatening their business’ survival in a competitive global market.
The only option to push back against big guys taking too much control, though, is for consumers to start thinking about where they are buying from and whether they value convenience more than integrity. “BUYER BEWARE,” Kahan warns. “The Amazon marketplace creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand.”
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