'Designer gear was too good to be true'

Oxford Mail: Matthew Croxson Matthew Croxson

OXFORD was flooded with hundreds of fake designer goods after a pop-up shop opened for business, a court heard yesterday.

The store, Labels 4 Less, was only open for a matter of weeks, and sold brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and G-Star to shoppers at prices as low as £12 for a T-shirt.

It replaced the closed Borders bookshop, in Magdalen Street, in April 2010 but was raided by trading standards officers after suspicions were raised by customers.

Officers seized more than 800 items of counterfeit clothing from the store, which is now a Tesco, which also included Ed Hardy tops and Echo jumpers.

Analysis of the products showed many to be fakes with poor quality stitching and embroidery and errors in labels.

Owner Matthew Croxson and manager Matthew Brooks were arrested following the raid on April 17, 2010.

Croxson, 42, was in overall charge of the business and bought the stock, while Brooks, 38, managed the day-to-day business of the shop, prosecutor Tim Boswell said.

Croxson, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, and Brooks, of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, deny the eight count indictment and are standing trial at Oxford Crown Court.

Mr Boswell said: “There were various clothes on display, for example Ralph Lauren T-shirts for £12 and Tommy Hilfiger for £17 down from £50.

“It sounds too good to be true. It turns out it was too good to be true. The items were found to be counterfeit.

“It was an operation which had the potential to turn over thousands of pounds.

“A member of the trading standards team made a test purchase and bought a ladies G-Star top which they later found to be counterfeit.

“After that was found to be counterfeit, trading standards decided to carry out a full-scale search of the shop, accompanied by police and an expert.

“They found some items to be genuine and some to be counterfeit. More than 800 items were seized overall in the raid and were taken away for analysis.”

In all 211 G-Star, 304 Ralph Lauren, 79 Tommy Hilfiger, 106 Ed Hardy and 152 Echo garments were found to be fake.

The shop also sold genuine goods, including Nike, Adidas and Hollister products at heavily discounted prices, the jury was told.

Anthony Williams, an expert in brand protection for Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, said when examined he found both makes’ items were of poor quality and were missing manufacturer labels.

Mr Williams said: “The public are being conned into believing they are buying genuine products when they are not. It is a luxury brand, but when they are sold at these prices it opens up a market to which the brand doesn’t want it sold to.

“It creates damage to the brand.”

The trial, which is expected to finish next week before judge Anthony King, continues.

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