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Counterfeit Street: Sunday Mirror investigates hidden 'shopping mall' of fake designer and electrical goods
Jun 15, 2014 08:00
By Gemma Aldridge
Hidden behind the shutters of apparently derelict shops lies an Aladdin's Cave of fake goods which attracts buyers from across the UK
 chanel bags outlet stores The shutters are down and the windows boarded up on the once-bustling high street.chanel bags The derelict shops in the shadow of Strangeways Prison, Manchester, give all the appearance of being completely abandoned, sad and ­crumbling ­casualties of the economic crisis.chanel handbags outlet But behind the locked doors of Bury New Road, in a maze of back alleys and basements, a new trade is flourishing – fake designer goods worth millions of pounds change hands here every year.chanel handbag outlet It’s a hidden shopping mall and cash-and-carry all rolled into one, a secret outlet village where rogue traders buy fake supplies in bulk and sell them on across the country.chanel handbags online outlet The Government last week announced plans to crack down on the selling of fake goods, ­especially on the internet. It came after a report showed the number of illegal website links removed worldwide in the past year had soared by a huge 620 per cent to 72million.But despite a recent clampdown on illegal goods by Greater Manchester Police , anyone can just wander in to this Hooky Street-style den of “designer” goods.We were able to buy must-have items such as a fake Louis Vuitton satchel for £15, counterfeit Jimmy Choo shoes for £10, fake Beats headphones for £5 and a “Nike England” shirt for £20, all way below prices for the real thing.And we weren’t alone. Hordes of shoppers from across the UK come to buy fake handbags, watches, sunglasses and sports gear from a labyrinth of more than 20 black market stores.
Sunday Mirror
Sunglasses: Some claim to be Dior, but cost £10
Each is the size of a large garage. The operation works like a well-oiled machine – and it’s easy to see why people come here to spend what little money they earn or receive in benefits in a time of austerity.“People come here because they don’t want to pay any more than this. Times are hard and it’s all they can afford,” a stallholder tells us, by a rack of fake Gucci tops.On the day we are there some lads with thick ­Liverpool accents each buy an “England shirt” for £20. Nearby, an elderly man sizes some shirts for his grandchildren and a young mum rifles through the bargain bins as she bounces a toddler on her hip.Though that all helps swell the black-market coffers, it is not how the big money changes hands. The real profits come in bulk sales. Members of the buy-to-sell network pick up job lots such as 200 “designer” shirts for £3,000 in cash.They then sell the shirts on at £30 a piece – double their outlay but still only a fraction of what the real thing costs.“Lots of people come here from far away,” one seller tells us. “We get people from ­Scotland, Birmingham and London as well as Manchester. You can’t come all the way from somewhere like Birmingham for one tracksuit, so they buy more and sell on. They will spend £500 or £600. They buy something for £25 and sell it for £40 – that’s a tidy profit.”As you walk down the pavement of the mile-long road in North Manchester, young men lurk on street corners outside the locked shutters. Look closely and you can see their mobile phones are walkie-talkies for communicating with their colleagues on the inside.These men are the spotters. They bring customers in and keep police out. If they see a police car it’s down to them to raise the alarm.We arrive on Saturday morning and within minutes a spotter mutters: “You want to go shopping?” When we give him the nod he unlocks the door of a shuttered electrical shop. We discover the inside is bursting with fake designer sports gear. Dodgy Ralph Lauren track suits, Superdry hoodies and North Face jackets hang from wires.Copied Nike, Converse and Adidas trainers are lined up for £25 a pair and shorts go from as little as £10. A sea of cardboard boxes on the floor are filled with “designer” T-shirts next to a sign reading “3-4-£10”. And look-a-like ­electrical goods like the Dr Dre Beats headphones we bought for £5.
Sunday Mirror
Nike: The illegal traders’ price is just £25
The Liverpool lads are more interested in England football gear. The place is the hub of a huge fake kit trade. Dealers are cashing in on the World Cup by buying “England shirts” here and flogging them via the internet. “If you buy more, they get cheaper,” the seller explains.“Two for £35 and if you buy enough we can go down to £15 – that’s almost cost price for us. If you want more you call me and I will get them for you no problem.”But he warns: “You need to get them quickly because they will only sell for two or three weeks while England survive in the tournament.”We later phoned the man, who called himself Hassan, and he promised he could provide 200 or more shirts the following week. “You can use a courier service to your home and whatever they charge depends on the weight of the box,” he told us.Our ­investigators bought an England shirt for testing by trading standards, but as they tried to leave they found the front door had been locked.Customers are not allowed to go out that way to avoid attracting ­attention to the premises. Instead, they are ushered through a long corridor and out via a fire exit which backs on to a narrow alley lined with open doors.Here, men sit outside on stools, enticing shoppers in to view their wares. In the maze of alleys, out of view of the main street, there is no shame or ­discretion about what these men are doing. They call to customers as they pass, promising low prices and high quality and huge discounts for those buying in bulk.
Sunday Mirror
Designer bags: 'Chanel' and 'Mulberry' all going for a song
Each doorway is like an entrance to an ­Aladdin’s cave of fakes. When we ask if the products are real, the stall holders laugh – but still go for the sale. “Handbags start at £15,” one man says, inviting us inside.We go down a rickety staircase into the ­basement where there is a room full of bags and purses bearing the names of Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Chanel. None cost more than £35, a fraction of the real price.“They are good quality, they come from China,” the trader says as he offers us “Miu Miu” purses for £7. Some fakes are better than others, but they are all fairly convincing. Some are even leather, and lined with the logo material.At another stall, we bought a “Louis Vuitton” bag for £15. “Prada is £17, Chanel is £16. That’s the lowest we can do,” the seller told us.Perfume is also on offer. “It’s not real but it’s a very good copy,” we are told. “It comes from Turkey. You put it on today and you can still smell it tomorrow. Lots of my customers buy here and sell it on the internet as the real thing.”
Sunday Mirror / Neil Atkinson
Shop fronts: Fake goods lie behind doors in Manchester
It’s clear as shoppers walk around holding bulging bags that ­stallholders are doing a roaring trade. One trader reveals that lorry loads of stock come in weekly on Mondays or Tuesdays from a single supplier who imports them from abroad and distributes them among the shops.It’s also clear from the way the men behave that they are all part of one ­operation. Rather than competing with one another, they usher customers from one shop to the next, sharing stock when they run out of a certain size or colour. “We have one supplier for most of the street so if it’s not here you might not get it,” one seller tells us.Making or selling fake goods is against the law. Sellers can be fined or even go to jail.The police have already tried to crack down on the Manchester trade. In 2010, officers seized more than £3million of fake clothing in the city and 13 people were arrested. A further raid of warehouses in the area uncovered another £2million in bogus products. And only 10 days ago, there was another swoop on nearby Cheetham Hill, which is infamous for its bootleg tobacco and alcohol traders. Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “These scams show why urgent action is needed to protect consumers. Tough laws are in place to crack down on fake goods and piracy now carries a sentence of up to 10 years."The selling of fake goods is a global problem which is why the Government is working with countries around the world to tackle this type of crime.”The Citizens Advice Bureau also warns shoppers that ­counterfeit goods could contain harmful substances. And if they are electrical – such as ­headphones – they could even kill. They say: “If you buy fake goods you could harm your health, ­commit a crime and help fund crime.”
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