‘It’s ridiculous’: Fury over Aldi copycat stool
IT WAS the wooden stool that had homeware fanatics excited after weeks of promotion by discount retailer Aldi.
The $69 item was due to go on sale this morning as part of the retailer's Special Buys homeware sale and was seen as a budget-version of the iconic Mark Tuckey Egg Cup stool, which retails for more than $550 in some designer outlets across the country.
But the German supermarket decided to pull the product from sale the night before it was due to hit the shelves.
Posting on their Facebook page, Aldi said the stool was no longer available, and that "production issues" were to blame.
But just hours before Aldi's announcement that the stool would not be part of the sale, the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) launched a petition demanding the German retailer pull "copied products" from sale, and that a public apology was to be issued directly to Australian designer Mark Tuckey.
DIA chief executive officer Jo-Ann Kellock told news.com.au she had talked to Aldi about the replica and that the sale of "cheap" copies was getting "ridiculous".
"It's getting so blatant," she told news.com.au. "Australia's current intellectual property laws are grossly inadequate. IP Australia is currently considering if Australia should join the Hague Agreement (which) would afford Australian designers protection against replicas in multiple countries or regions with minimal formalities."
Since the sale, an Aldi spokesperson clarified the "production issue" was due to a problem with Australian quarantine.
"The product needs to undergo further treatment before it is sold in ALDI stores," a statement to news.com.au read.
However, some customers have questioned their statement, with several customers revealing they were able to obtain the stools in store - but had them recalled at the checkout.
"Very disappointed Aldi, I had them (one of each) in my trolley to only have them taken off me," one shopper wrote.
"I had 2 in my trolley got right to the register tried to scan and sorry there's a "manufacturing issue"," another added.
Aldi declined to clarify what the "production issue" that prevented the sale was when approached by news.com.au. They did, however, say that the item would now be available in late August.
Ms Kellock said the replica items created an unfair playing field for designers, and was a "growing issue" for the creatives who put work and effort into developing a design.
"It's not OK to be able to hide behind a big brand," she said. "It's ethically inconsiderate and undervalues the design process.
"They (larger retailers) are taking advantage (because) they don't have to go through the expense of the design process."
Ms Kellock said the stool wasn't the only product the institute was concerned about.
Melbourne-based designer Siobhan Glass, who owns Miss Glass Home, claims her $329 clothes airer was used as a prop in an Aldi catalogue campaign in September 2017, but the design had now been used for its "luxe homewares" sales event.
Taking to Instagram, Ms Glass posted an image of her clothes rack, which she claims has been recreated by Aldi and released for sale for just $49.
"Hey @aldiaustralia remember this catalogue early September last year?" her post read.
"My Clothes Airer #2 was used as a prop to sell your towel set. Customers went crazy thinking it was part of your range … it appears you have been very inspired judging by your catalogue starting tomorrow with your range of Clothes Airers. Even the towel placement is exactly the same!!"
Ms Glass said the tapered ends, leather strap and hooks were signature details that made the design unique to her brand.
"Make your own towel rack but don't take the unique details away from a small Melbourne furniture designer like me. There's room for us all to run our businesses without having to step on each other toes," she said.
"Spare a thought for us creative small businesses who rely heavily on a small range of products to pay our rent and put food on the table for our families. You know we can't compete with you and this is exactly why you do it."
Despite reaching out to Aldi, Ms Glass said the clothes rack was still available during the homewares sale on Wednesday.
Some social media users were quick to question the reason behind Aldi's backflip on the stool sale, with some suggesting larger retailers such as Aldi and Kmart look at investing in their own designs.
"Shame that the people waiting this morning at Aldi weren't told about this 'recall'," one person wrote. "Could've saved annoyed customers a lot of wasted time trying to find out what was going on."
"I understand the need to make money and follow trends, but this is an iconic Australian design that should be respected as such," another said.
One shopper, Jenny of Sydney's north shore, didn't see the Facebook post online and was disappointed she wasn't able to nab one of the stools.
"I tore myself out of bed for this after ringing customer service yesterday to ascertain that they would be distributed nationwide," she explained. "And they said yes they would definitely be in all the stores.
"So it was very disappointing to find that they are not there, especially as there is a picture of it outside the store. It's very disappointing and obviously the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing because customer service told us one thing, and the store told us another."
News.com.au contacted Mark Tuckey for comment.