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Monday, August 20, 2012

The 'MAC at Target' Saga



Well isn't this the trending topic of the month?

For those outside of Australia, I should start by letting you know that MAC (and all cosmetics) cost approximately double here than what they do in the US. A MAC eyeshadow is $36, a foundation is $49 and a blush is $40. MAC is only sold at MAC counters, MAC stores and online through the MAC website.

For those in Australia, you've probably read by now that Target have started selling MAC products and no one, not even MAC themselves, are sure how Target managed to get their hands on the items and why they are able to sell them at such a low cost ($19, instead of $36 that you pay buying directly from MAC).

The biggest concern is their authenticity and how old the products are. 

I've seen myself quoted on several blogs now discussing the 'MAC at Target' issue and there are a few places where I have been misquoted or linked to being directly associated with MAC and Target. This has resulted in my inbox being flooded with questions on whether I think the products are fake and a few people even thinking that I have been somehow involved with the products being stocked at Target.

I'm going to answer your questions and keep this as brief as possible, please note that these are my opinions on the situation only.

Are you employed by MAC? Are you employed by Target?

I do have a working relationship with MAC but I am not employed by them. I am also not employed by Target but I have been employed by Coles Group who own Target. Neither of these two things alter my views on the 'MAC at Target' saga.

Are you involved with Target stocking MAC Cosmetics?

No, I only found out about it at the same time that you did, when it was announced on public forums and on the Target website.

Are the MAC products at Target authentic or fakes?

Unfortunately the only people who can answer that question is Target. I really don't know. They appear to be authentic products and Target have assured the public that they are not fake products.

Will you be purchasing MAC products at Target?

Absolutely not. Target is not an authorised stockist of MAC Cosmetics and we really have no idea where they have sourced the products from. Target have stated that they sourced their MAC products from the US through a wholesaler in Melbourne. MAC do not have any wholesalers in the US or Australia.

Have you spoken with MAC about the products stocked at Target?

Yes and all information that I can gather is that MAC really have no idea where these products have come from and are completely unaware of their authenticity.

How do you think that Target have acquired the products and how do you feel about the whole situation?

Please be aware that this is my opinion only.

Personally, I don't think that Target would knowingly sell counterfeit MAC products. I believe that they have purchased these products through a wholesaler in Melbourne, just like they have stated. I think that Target have seen all of the forums, articles and blog posts that discuss how 'unfair' it is that cosmetics in Australia are so highly priced and have found a way to make a quick profit on selling these items.

The main problem we are faced with is this 'wholesaler' based in Melbourne. We have no idea where this person has found these products to sell to Target in such large quantities. There are approximately 300 Target stores in Australia and by looking at photos of the MAC displays it appears that each display has a stock of 40-50 items. This means that Target has purchased 12,000-15,000 items from the US to sell in Australia. Now surely if anyone was purchasing 15,000 products, resulting in a $300,000 order, MAC would raise a red flag and know that something is going on. It just doesn't make sense that MAC have no clue where these items have come from and why Target are selling them.

All of these things seem to point towards counterfeit products. 

Not only that but how much does Target have to gain from selling these products? If they're buying each eyeshadow for $15.95 from the US and selling them for $19 they're only making a $3 or 16% profit. And that doesn't include shipping and import costs to get the products here.

Considering that Target generally make a 200-600% profit on each item it really doesn't make sense that they would go through all the effort of bringing products into Australia to only make a 16% profit.

This means that Target must have bought the items at a cheaper cost.

There are three ways to buy discounted MAC products. 

1. A MAC Pro card which gives up to 40% discount. No one could ever get away with purchasing this quantity of products on a MAC Pro card. MAC would immediately pick it up as suspicious activity, block the order and cancel the Pro account of the card holder. This option isn't possible.

2. Cosmetic Outlets. These are scattered all around the US and sell old MAC (and Estee Lauder) stock at a discounted price (usually about 30% cheaper). It is possible that MAC could have cleaned out all of these outlets but that means they would have to have someone go all over the US, going into each outlet and purchasing all of the stock. This would also raise an alert to Estee Lauder (who own MAC) that something is going on. My original theory was that this is how Target had acquired all of the products but the more I think about it, the more unlikely it seems.

3. Fakes. You can buy fake MAC at an incredibly cheap price. Not only that but there are different types of fakes. There are the obvious fakes that you can spot a mile away but there are also fakes that are really similar to the authentic product and can easily slip by consumers who believe that they are real.

It has already been noted that some of the MAC products in Target appear to have very slightly different packaging than the MAC products that consumers have purchased through MAC stores in Australia.

Target have said that the packaging is different because the products are purchased in the US who have slightly different packaging to Australia. 

This isn't true either. I have many MAC products (well over 100) that have been purchased in both Australia and the US and the packaging is exactly the same. Most MAC products are made in Canada and the US. Some are made in Japan and France. The products are shipped from the same factories to the rest of the world. There is no difference in packaging in any country.

Target have stated that their MAC products are put through two laboratory tests to ensure that they're genuine. No laboratory test is going to confirm whether a product is genuine or not, it will only confirm whether the product is safe for human use. Not only that but I have studied chemistry, you don't put a finished product through a lab test. This appears to me to be a quick lie to cover any lack on their part. Or Target have been told by their 'wholesaler' that they have put the products through testing, we have no idea if this is true or not.

All signs here point towards a fake product. 


Conclusion

I think that Target have sourced these products through a wholesaler based in Melbourne however I don't think that it is possible that these items are authentic. It's too much work for far too little profit. The explanations on product and packaging variations are false. If Target had purchased such large quantities of MAC products, MAC would know that there had been suspicious activity and would have most likely blocked the sale.

The being said, I am willing to give Target the benefit of doubt that they have been unaware that these products are counterfeit.
Their statements on product packaging variations and sourcing from a 'wholesaler' are the exact same statements that I have received from companies selling fake products. If Target purchased these products and the wholesaler is covering their back by giving these excuses as to why the products don't look the same, it's likely that Target would believe it.

I do think that Target is selling fake MAC products but I also think that they were unaware of this themselves. Fake MAC can be hard to spot and most people don't even know that fake MAC exists.

Fake cosmetics can be dangerous, you have no idea what ingredients they are made with or what testing processes the items have been through before reaching you. It's not worth running the risk.