Watch out for 'retail scalpers' on eBay

Luca Bruno / AP

If you follow fashion you'll be familiar with the sell-out success last month of designer brand Missoni's line for budget US retailer Target.

Yet within moments of selling out, thousands of the designer's distinctive products were up for sale elsewhere at hugely inflated prices in a burgeoning practice known as 'retail scalping.'

Retail scalping is basically where individuals and businesses bulk-buy limited edition products with the sole intention of selling them at profit elsewhere.

Following 'Missoni mayhem' last month, where the prospect of bagging the designer brand at discount prices caused the retailer's site to crash and many stores to sell out within two hours, the limited edition products started popping up all over the internet at prices far higher than those charged at Target.

Buying frenzy
Bicycles from the collection, originally on sale for $500, were on sale on eBay for $1,500, while on Craigslist - where one of the fashionable bikes sold for the same inflated price - reported that a $39.99 blanket sold for almost $200.

The 'must have' hysteria of this practice hugely drives up prices of the discount collections, meaning consumers end up paying almost as much, or in some cases even more, than a brand's full price collections. Scalpers fuel the frenzy by targeting covetable items that are not only an immediately recognisable brand - such as Missoni's iconic zig-zags - but have limited availability.

The Daily Mail reports that while some stores cap sales to only one or two per customer - Alexa Chung for Madewell collection, and high-end department store, Saks Fifth Avenue, for example - others are not so strict, fuelling the international scalping trade.

Supply and demand
Speaking about the Missoni debacle, Joshua Thomas, Target spokesman, told the paper: "Is it something we're pleased with? No... We encourage consumers to be cautious because we can't validate the authenticity... or guarantee the consumer is getting the best value."

Miriam Lahage, Global Head of Fashion Brand, eBay, told MailOnline that prices do tend to calm down after initial hype: "This is typical for highly anticipated designer collaborations with limited supply or perceived scarcity where we see initial global demand at prices higher than retail.

"Prices normalize over time as supply ramps up to meet demand, but eBay is often the only destination to purchase the products immediately," she said.
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