Los Angeles—Imports of counterfeit luxury leathergoods are on the rise which is why the U.S. Customs and Border Protection made such a big deal Tuesday when the agency confiscated some 1,500 counterfeit Hermès handbags.
There were two shipments seized, one bound for Mexico and the other to a location in the United States. The counterfeit bags, which originated from China, have a combined estimated domestic value of $18,412.
“The $18,412 combined estimated domestic value of the shipments is an indicator of potentially high profit margins in the illegal trade of this type of counterfeit luxury product,” U.S. CBP official Jaime Ruiz said in a statement.
Had the handbags been the real Hermès, they would be worth an estimated $14.1 million, customs agents said.
The importing of counterfeit handbags and small leathergoods has been on the rise, with a 142% increase in the value of goods seized in 2012 compared with the previous year, the agency said in a news release. Of the $511 million in counterfeit bags seized in 2012, the vast majority were made in China, the customs agency said.
Ruiz said that counterfeit manufacturers are increasingly turning toward ultra high-end brands—so-called “absolute luxury”—to increase their profit margins.
According to the Associated Press, other recent notable “luxurygoods” seizures at the Southern California port complex have included 20,000 pairs of counterfeit Christian Louboutin shoes and nearly 79,000 pairs of sunglasses with design and logo similarities to Coach, Gucci, and Armani.
Ruiz said that the companies slated to receive the fake Hermès bags were given warnings, but criminal charges are typically pursued only for repeat offenders.