Armed with tech, Goodwill joins fight against designer fakes
Shopgoodwill.com, the e-commerce site used by several Goodwill organizations to sell items online nationwide, on Thursday announced it will use an AI-based solution from authentication technology firm Entrupy to guarantee that luxury accessories sold there are genuine.
As donations come in to stores, Goodwill employees will use Entrupy to verify authenticity before listing them on the site. Items found to be counterfeit will be dismantled and repurposed for other uses like craft materials or textile recycling, Ryan Smith, senior director online operations at shopgoodwill.com, told Retail Dive in an interview.
Individual Goodwill stores, which are run locally, could also leverage the Entrupy process for brick-and-mortar sales if they choose, according to Smith. With a database of "millions of data points [and growing] from real and fake goods for 100 years of styles from brands including, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Celine, Chanel, Chloé, Coach, Dior, Fendi, Goyard, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and YSL/Saint Laurent," Entrupy's solution uses machine learning and computer-vision tech to verify items with 99.1% accuracy, according to a press release from the companies emailed to Retail Dive.
Treasure seekers at Goodwill stores have their own bag of tricks for finding the best stuff — things that still have their tags on, or high-end designer bags and other upscale goods that they could never otherwise afford in their first runs.
Goodwill's boutiques and e-commerce site now help unearth such things for you, but it could still be difficult to know just how good a find like that might be. Now, however, the nonprofit is taking a step further, following eBay and upscale resale site The RealReal in promising that a designer item is authentic.
Some, but not all, brands are keen on the idea. Kering — the parent company of upscale brands Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and others — seems to be on board, having told analysts in the past that it's actively working with The RealReal on merchandising, and Neiman Marcus previously partnered with the consignment startup. But Chanel apparently wants little to do with such sales, in light of its lawsuit against the resale startup alleging that its authentication process hasn't been approved by Chanel and that the site has sold fakes (claims The RealReal "unequivocally rejects").
Smith said he hasn't been in communication with brands, but that he believes that everyone is on the same page, or should be. Unlike many resale shops or sites, which might reject an item for resale but leave it in the hands of the consignor, Goodwill destroys the fakes. "Basically we want to be upfront with the product we're using," he said. "We're acting in very good faith here, helping their product to sell better and keeping fakes off of the market. It's our hope that we keep those out of circulation — since we have that same goal, it would behoove us all to work together."
Goodwill has worked to evaluate such goods in the past, but it was a time-consuming and less reliable process, Smith said, adding that Entrupy's tech has made all the difference.
"There are a lot of fakes to look out for, and it can be difficult for a staff that isn't professionally trained in that kind of task to do that. We've used authentication services in the past for shopgoodwill, but it hasn't been as formalized a process. They were manual — you'd submit and wait maybe a day, maybe two," he said. "Now it's a more integrated process, and it has really, really increased the efficiencies and the accuracy of our authentication."
That's going to be a boost, possibly even for donations, but definitely for sales, according to Smith. "The real upside is filtering the counterfeit product out of the donation stream that Goodwills get as it is. If there's a regular donor to Goodwill, perhaps they will donate with more confidence that we're going to maximize their donation — they're entrusting us with their treasures," he said.
"But the real impact is going to be on the sale side of things. The customer's confidence goes up, the price points go up, and at the end of the day, that's what we're here for, is to put those donations toward mission support."
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