Tesco has kick-started a PR campaign against Levi Strauss after
losing its European Court of Justice case over the import of 'grey
market' goods from outside the European Union.
The verdict on Tuesday saw the ECJ uphold Levis' rights to regulate the
supply and pricing of its goods in the EU, despite their availability at
lower prices elsewhere.
A Tesco spokesman said the supermarket is using the loss of consumer
choice represented by the decision as the template for its PR battle:
'They're taking a chance as some of the arguments they (Levi Strauss)
put to the Court will not go down very well with consumers as they are
looking to limit their choice of where and at what price they can buy
The case originated from the differences in retail prices of branded
products between countries, with UK recommended retail prices up to
twice those in the US.
In light of the decision, the British Brand Group (BBG), the body that
seeks to protect the rights of brands operating in the UK, also stepped
up its PR. The body maintains that manufacturers need to sell goods at
higher prices in Europe due to higher regulatory standards.
As part of the strategy, BBG director and media spokesman John Noble
undertook a raft of media interviews in an effort to defend the trade
He was supported by retained agency Hill & Knowlton, which handled the
media enquiries that ensued.
Sarah Gower, PR head at Adidas, which is another of the firms affected
by grey market retailing in the UK, admitted her employer is in the same
position as Levi's.
But she indicated that the sportswear giant does not see any threat to
its reputation through efforts to maintain its pricing structure, since
'the brands are strong enough.'
A spokesman for Asda, which pre-empted the ECJ's decision with its own
line of grey market goods, said the supermarket would continue to pursue
While he admitted that the move had the effect of acting as an incentive
for Christmas shoppers to visit the store, he said he 'couldn't possibly
say' whether the store's current stocks originated from within the EU or
Tesco, too, has vowed to continue stocking EU-sourced goods, refusing to
admit defeat in an area widely perceived as the next battleground for
the supermarket price wars.