If you buy a branded item you expect it to be made by that brand, right? Not necessarily, as we found out when we scratched the surface of some top gardening tools and discovered that all’s not what it may seem…
American investor Warren Buffet said it can take 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it.
So I was surprised to learn that a couple of famous British brands have decided to risk their reputation by allowing products they haven’t made to be sold bearing their name.
What’s in a name?
Two big names in gardening tools – Spear & Jackson and Qualcast – have both sold licences to the Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase).
This means that Argos and Homebase can use these prestigious brand names on their own-brand products. Not only that, but the companies that own the two brands continue to make and sell their own products through Argos and Homebase.
In other words, if you buy, for example, a Qualcast mower at Argos or Homebase, it may not be made by Qualcast. In fact Qualcast may not have had anything to do with the product – but it will bear its name.
Branding could mislead buyers
We only discovered this practice when we were testing a new Qualcast Lawn Rake for the November issue of Which? Gardening.
We discovered that the machine isn’t manufactured by Qualcast but is sourced and supplied by the Home Retail Group for Argos and Homebase. But to all intents and purposes it looks like a Qualcast product – it says Qualcast on the box, and when you ring the customer helpline you’re welcomed to Qualcast Technical Support. It’s not clear at any point that you’re buying a Home Retail Group product.
We also bought two Qualcast-branded mowers from Homebase, one manufactured by Bosch and one made by the Home Retail Group. We thought both products looked very similar – to the untrained eye it would be impossible to tell which one is genuinely made by Bosch.
Think before you buy
While others may be concerned about the risk to the Qualcast and Spear & Jackson brands, here at Which? we’re more concerned with how this could mislead consumers.
We know that many people buy products based on the strength of the brand in the media or their own experience of buying and using a branded product previously.
Do you feel that this practice could mislead you into buying one of these ‘branded’ products? Do you care? Maybe you’ve bought one of these products, only to discover later it’s not what you thought it was.