JEDDAH: Ibrahim Naffee
Published — Wednesday 22 January 2014
Last update 22 January 2014 12:36 am
China may have emerged as a major outsourcing destination for Western companies and brands to manufacture their products, but in Saudi Arabia, the “Made in China” mention on labels of even popular brands is enough to discourage Saudi consumers from buying them. This is mainly because of popular perception among the citizens that all Chinese products are fakes.
Be it branded clothes, shoes or other consumer goods, they are invariably produced in China, and this leaves a lot of Saudis wondering why these products dominate the local market. Not many are aware that several US and European firms have set up factories not only in China, but also other Asian countries where labor comes cheap. And this is why many Saudis get surprised after looking at the high price tags of Western brands with ‘Made in China’ labels. Their immediate reaction is that it could be a fake product or commercial fraud being perpetrated on consumers.
However, the discerning and better informed section of Saudi consumers does not suspect the authenticity of such products, since they are aware that several Western firms face problems in their own countries like environmental and pollution issues.
Hisham Al-Mutlaq, a Saudi investor, said: “It is the responsibility of Western companies to export raw materials to their factories in China or wherever they exist. That’s how some of the Western products made in China are of high quality and meet the required international standards.”
Al-Mutlaq, however, did not deny the existence of some Arab brokers in China. “They play a big role in facilitating import of some counterfeit products at lower prices into the Kingdom and sell them as global items.”
Zuhair Al-Sheikh, a Saudi employee in the private sector, says: “As a consumer, I’m not worried about ‘Made in China’ products at high prices. But there are some products like electronic devices which are made in Japan which come under the ambit of commercial fraud.”
Some vendors have specialized in selling counterfeit products. They sell watches of Swiss brands, which are not genuine. But the vendors are still in business because they know that some consumers buy the fakes since they can’t afford genuine products that are expensive.
“If anyone wants to buy a genuine watch of a reputable brand, he must then go to one of its authorized agents. But when they come to us, we know they want to buy a cheaper, counterfeit watch of a reputed brand. That’s why we are in business,” a Yemeni vendor in downtown Jeddah said.
Chinese counterfeit products, particularly clothes and shoes carrying Western brand names, have flooded the market. It is common knowledge that most of the companies that manufacture these products are from Western companies.
“Many Saudi traders import their goods from China at cheap prices and sell them in the Kingdom at high rates,” Mohammad Al-Farhan, a Saudi dealer selling clothes said, adding: “About 60 percent of goods are made in China, while 80 percent of the goods made in the country are in the clothing sector.”