Target Apparel is taking on Target, and taking cues from Canada Goose and American Apparel, too
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also lucrative if you know what you’re doing. Take Canadian mall mogul Isaac Benitah. The “cheap chic” retailer, who presides over Fairweather and International Clothiers, is embroiled in a high-stakes legal war with Minneapolis-based Target Corp. over the use of the “Target” name in Canada. And he is doing so while borrowing from other well-established brands at the same time.
Recent newspaper ads for Target Apparel, owned by Benitah’s Fairweather Ltd., advertise a line of Canada Weathergear “Super Triple Goose” parkas for as little as $79.99 that closely resemble popular Canada Goose jackets, which cost more than $500. That’s not all. Target Apparel’s logo appears at the bottom of the ads, complete with a font that closely resembles the one used by American Apparel, albeit with a maple leaf plastered on the end.
It’s a veritable triple play. While some shoppers might be inclined to shake their heads, experts say the strategy can translate into big money in a country where copyright laws are weak when it comes to fashion, and trademark infringement is difficult—and expensive—to prove. “You’ve got two target groups,” says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “People who might be fooled by the real thing and those who know it’s not the real thing, but don’t want to pay for the real thing.”
Meanwhile, in the case of Target, Benitah may also be set for a big payday. He won an early victory after a federal court turned down an attempt by Target, set to open stores in Canada in 2013, to make him stop using the name. Now Benitah, who could not be reached for comment and claims to have owned rights to the Target name in Canada for a decade, is seeking his own injunction against Target’s bid to sell clothing in Canada, with a trial set for the end of 2012. Jim Danahy, the head of retail consultancy CustomerLAB, calls it a clever tactic by a Canadian entrepreneur “with the ultimate aim of forcing the U.S. firm to pay up for Canadian marketing rights.”