Designer shoppers lured by Asda prices

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The Independent Online
ASDA FIRED the latest salvo yesterday in its battle over cut-price designer goods, luring shoppers away from the Harvey Nichols outlet in Leeds to its own store in nearby Wakefield.

The supermarket chain has set up its own "grey market" stall of designer goods there in a direct challenge to last month's European ruling banning the sale of such goods by unauthorised retailers. The European Court ruling aimed to stop the flow of designer goods to retailers from unauthorised wholesalers outside the EU - a supply channel known as the grey market.

Asda claims the ruling is unclear and has vowed to continue fighting designer manufacturers on behalf of the shopper.

Yesterday it laid on a coach from outside Harvey Nichols, whose London branch was immortalised in the television series Absolutely Fabulous, to take shoppers to its own store where they were greeted by staff in dinner jackets.

Justin King, Asda's deputy trading director, said: "We've tried to obtain official supplies of designer products, but our requests always fall on deaf ears - despite the fact that brands are happy for their products to be sold on airline trolleys, by mail order or even on the Internet."

Phil Reed, the store's corporate affairs director, said many of the 25 people who joined the coach had been browsing in Harvey Nichols but could not afford the prices.

"We would love to be able to stock all the designer products that Harvey Nichols stocks, and do this in all 219 stores, but manufacturers will not let us. They think supermarkets are not the right environment for their products."

Among the offers available at Wakefield and other Asda stores yesterday were Calvin Klein's CK1 fragrance for pounds 25.99 instead of pounds 29. Discounts of up to 50 per cent were available on scarves, bags and watches from designers including Yves St Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Moschino.

David Ruzicka, a 44 year-old businessman, visited the store with his daughter, Kimberley, 16, and bought a Timberland watch and Calvin Klein and Gucci sunglasses, saving more than pounds 100 on the list prices.

"I think from a consumer's point of view it's great," he said. "From a business point of view, I can see what the problems are - the manufacturers want to try to retain some profit. They've got to be careful they don't destroy the designer names by cheapening them too much. But I don't think whether you buy the goods from a posh shop or not has anything to do with it."

A Calvin Klein spokeswoman declined to comment: "We will have to look into this in more detail." But it is known that designer label manufacturers have been furious at the apparent lack of control they have over where their products are sold and at what price.

Earlier this week, Tesco announced it would be selling grey-market designer items in two of its stores until further notice despite the European ban.

Where to buy cut-price top names

ASDA

In Wakefield:

Scarves - Yves St Laurent, Ungaro, Nina Ricci and Mantero pounds 29.99 (Usual price pounds 59 to pounds 89); Ties - Christian Lacroix, Ungaro, Yves St Laurent, Trussardi, Gianfranco Ferre pounds 19.99 (pounds 49 to pounds 79).

Handbags - Versace pounds 99.99 (at least pounds 149); Shoulder bags - Dolce & Gabbana pounds 49.99 (at least pounds 80), Moschino pounds 124.99 (at least pounds 199); Watches - Timberland pounds 59.99 (pounds 99).

Sunglasses - Silhouette, Bojner Titanium, Bolle, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Carrera, DAKS, Diesel, G Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Ines de la Fressag, Police, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Versace pounds 29.50 to pounds 79.50 (pounds 59 to pounds 163).

Skincare - Clarins 20 per cent below usual price; Fragrances - Amarige, Anais Anais, Dolce & Gabbana, Dune, Eden, Jazz, Kouros, Lou Lou, Narcisse, Nino Cerruti, Opium, Paco Rabanne, Paris, Versace, XS, and Ysatis up to 50 per cent below usual price.

All 219 stores have fragrances. Nearly 100 have sunglasses. Clarins skincare available in 25.

TESCO

Stores at Pitsea, Essex, and New Malden, Surrey, are to carry permanent stocks of grey-market goods, including electrical equipment and mountain bikes and clothing.

Levi 501 jeans (blue and black) pounds 30 (sold at other stores for pounds 49); Adidas 3-stripe T-shirt pounds 11 (pounds 15.99); Calvin Klein boxer brief pounds 10 (pounds 19); Nike Airmax Triax trainer pounds 45 (pounds 79.99); Premiership football shirts pounds 33 (pounds 45); Adidas SL96 Plus Lea running shoe pounds 25 (pounds 49.99).

Other stores may have odd bargains from previous consignments.

SAFEWAY

No new consignments at present, but may still have some items like England football shirts in individual stores.

SAINSBURY

None in Sainsbury supermarkets at present but its 13 Savacentre hypermarkets have some existing stocks ofCalvin Klein underwear and Nike and Adidas leisurewear.

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