I. Definition: Grey Market:
“An unofficial market in which goods are bought and sold at prices lower than the official price set by a regulatory agency [Word net].” [pic]
|Extended Definition: |
Grey marketing (also sometimes known as “gray market”) involves the trade of legal goods through unauthorized, unofficial, and unintended channels of distribution. Hence, trademarked products are often exported from one country to another and sold by unauthorized individuals or firms. This practice is also often known as parallel importing, product diverting, and even arbitrage, and typically flourishes when a product is in short supply, when manufacturers resort to skimming strategies in specific markets. A good example is the trading of crude oil by an individual.
The grey market includes services that are typically unregistered to evade taxes. Perfectly legitimate occupations, such as domestic help, babysitters, part time beauticians and freelancers, may not be registered. Not only is it difficult to detect such defaulters, the punishment is usually mild. For example, even as Apple, Inc., rolled out its latest third-generation iPhone on July 11, 2008, several retail stores throughout the world, including those in China and Thailand, continued to take orders even though this product was not being sold in those markets. Their computer codes were unlocked, so that the phones could be used with different mobile service providers. Even in India, one of the fastest-growing markets for cell phones, Apple delayed the release of the original iPhone until mid-2008, a year after the release in the United States and six months after its release in Europe, because of the fear of grey market sales. A wide range of goods and services have been sold through grey markets, including automobiles, broadcasting delivery, college textbooks, pharmaceuticals, photographic equipment, video games, and even wines. Research has demonstrated that every one of the world’s eight major export regions has experienced grey marketing activity damaging to their operations. Parallel market is further encouraged by periods of war or any other crisis. During harsh political conditions or natural disasters, scarce goods are rationed by the government. People have the tendency to violate restrictions or rationing laws to secure the products they desire.
In the United States, grey market goods are prohibited according to Section 526 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which expressly forbids importation of goods of foreign manufacture without permission of the trademark owner. However, the implementation of regulation by the U.S. Customs Service and the courts’ interpretation of the law have not been in line with each other. In a recent study, about 13 percent of the firms in North America have reported some form of grey marketing. A positive outcome of grey markets is that they provide brand-name goods at lower prices to the customer. They can create incremental sales in markets not in direct competition with sanctioned dealers, and sometimes help companies overcome distribution bottlenecks because of local government regulations. Occasionally, it is less expensive to tolerate grey marketing than to shut down the operations completely because of the time and resources required to monitor the violations.
Finally, eradicating grey marketing activities can provide a firm with sound marketing intelligence regarding customers in these markets and their buying behavior. On the other hand, the phenomenon obviously also has several drawbacks for companies. It simultaneously undermines the manufacturer’s distribution arrangements and their ability to control quality it creates the dilution of exclusivity and damages existing channel relationships. Official dealers may not choose to...