Hi, bad girls
I would post in Daily Shipping and customs support post, but I believe this is something helpful for everyone here.
I have been ordering Reps for about two years now and while I was slightly scared of my purchase being seized, and, therefore scared of possible financial losses, I haven’t really thought about any legal consequences. So many ppl say it’s not illegal to buy reps.... but guess what, you will still have consequences. So here is a good proof you should be wise when ordering reps.
Here is a real story: My friend only buys Auth items. One of those days she purchased an “authentic Dior bag” from one of those sketchy websites and she thought she scored a deal. Little she knew, it was a rep... wait for it... a $2000 rep 🤯😱😳😭 So, after some time she received a letter stating that she was involved in a counterfeit purchase demanding some monetary amount to be paid in order to settle the case - and she understood she has been flagged. Fast forward, two years later, she traveled outside of US and then returned back, AND .... border control officer asked her about being involved into purchase of counterfeit items (after scanning her passport). 🤯😳😳😳
After doing my due diligence on RL, reading CBP and DHS documents and thanks to a helpful post from u/Essiex13 about how rep purchasing might affect your travel as a Global Entry member (US)
I can confirm that YES, if you were "busted" purchasing reps it does go into some kind of file (I am talking about US only at this moment as I don't have any knowledge on other countries). This made me think: what if you are not a citizen and order reps, then you get busted and voila - you get a nasty record in "your file". Would that potentially affect your citizenship application outcome? 🤔 I haven’t found information on that yet, so if someone knows, feel free to comment!
So I was curious about operations on identifying parcels with counterfeits and other fufu items (links are in the end of the post) I wanted to highlight following bullet points for the sake of this community and all the newbies:
- The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) established the E-Commerce Working Group (ECWG) to gather data from affected carriers, shippers, search engines, and payment processors. Therefore, DON'T YOU DARE SEND CHINESE OR BST SELLERS BRAND NAMES OR ANY FREAKING NOTES! THEY WILL GET SUSPENDED AND WILL CURSE YOU! (jk, they won't curse you, but it will be a hassle for them)
- There is approximately 500 mln international packages annually + millions of express consignment carrier packages, so CBP doesn't have enough resources to screen every package, so do not freak out and spread paranoia whether your package will make it to you or not just yet.
- In 2018, the IPR Center conducted 192 IPR and commercial fraud-related outreach efforts, reaching 12,061 people. I guess, considering package volume it is a relatively low number and chances of being reached by these big guys are still quite low.
- Currently, non-resident importers can legally enter goods into the United States provided they have a “resident agent” as defined in regulation. In practice, it can be difficult to compel non-resident importers to pay civil penalties and respond to other enforcement actions
- So far, CBP has difficulties tracking sellers (and yes, they are tracking sellers and middlemen for now) within US marketplaces. They do not have any legal authority accessing some of the international marketplaces like TaoBao/Aliexpress/DHgate where they do not have specific international customs cooperation agreement. Therefore, our Lindashians, Min, Alice, Zippy etc should be fine
- Rights holders also provide CBP personnel with product identification guides that describe methods to distinguish between genuine and infringing products. These guides afford frontline personnel the ability to compare imported merchandise with pictures of genuine products. (Can please someone find it and upload it to RepLadies, so it will be easier for us to do QC :D)
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has developed the Automated Targeting System (ATS). ATS is an Intranet-based enforcement and decision support tool that is the cornerstone for all CBP targeting efforts. ATS accesses data from these sources, which collectively include electronically filed bills, entries, and entry summaries for cargo imports; shippers’ export declarations and transportation bookings and bills for cargo exports; manifests for arriving and departing passengers; land-border crossing and referral records for vehicles crossing the border; airline reservation data; nonimmigrant entry records; and records from secondary referrals, incident logs, suspect and violator indices, and seizures. Therefore, if your bag was seized in 2006, immigration officer will know that and will assume your auth Neverfull is a fake too, so you better be convincing! Btw, it is allowed to bring one counterfeit item for your personal use (and of course, you did not know it is a counterfeit ...bla-bla) and you will not be detained for that.
- The United States Postal Service coordinates its international inbound mail acceptance operations with CBP. A key part of these efforts is the availability and use of advance electronic data (AED). Examples of AED are Customs barcode; Sender information: name, full address, postal code; Receiver information: name, full address, postal code; Description of contents; Declared gross weight, Net weight; Number of units; Declared value amount Declared value currency; Transaction type (gift, documents, merchandise, etc.). AED is sent from the originating foreign post to the Postal Service, which then routes it to CBP. Based on AED, CBP requests specific mailpieces for the Postal Service to hold for further review before allowing them to enter the mailstream. So, if the customs declaration/shipping slip isn't filled accordingly OR sendereceiver is in CBP watchlist - then it is more likely for your parcel to be targeted for a hold from the moment it is dispatched.
To sum up. Even though packages are screened and seized, and ppl are blacklisted, there is still high probability of getting desired bag/shoes/dress through different selledelivery company/receiver etc. There is a POST ON RL
explaining why you package could’ve been selected for check and the best practices of behavior in case your package has been seized and you received a letter. I would recommend reading it, in order to get you prepared.
I hope this post is helpful and will give you a better idea of the rep shipping experience :)
References: Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods Privacy Impact Assessment for the Automated Targeting System Advance Electronic Data Holds and Reliability
UPDATE: Dave, are you watching me or I’m being too paranoid? 😂
Hey guys, last month I did a deep-dive into Booking Holdings (BKNG) so for August I wanted to follow this up with another, smaller OTA: Hostelworld Group.
N.B. I have gone long on HSW this past week.
This subreddit is always a goldmine for excellent questions, debate and feedback so any 2-cents given would be fantastic.
A lesser known online travel agency (“OTA”) in comparison to my last article on Booking Holdings (BKNG
), hostel focussed Hostelworld (HSW
) faces numerous challenges that have resulted in its valuation collapsing from ~£400M in 2018 to ~£70M in August 2020. Their strategy to reinvigorate growth; dividend cuts; and present uncertainty in the travel & tourism sector has investors displeased. Yet, a solid balance sheet ensures their survival of COVID-19; favourable sector tailwinds; and a current valuation pricing their new strategy for failure mean Hostelworld provides an alluring prospect against considerable competitive risks.
CURRENT PREDICAMENT COVID-19
When assessing Hostelworld’s current woes, let’s mention the elephant in the room first. An updated version of a visualisation shown in my previous article shows tourism is recovering sooner than anticipated. Yet remember, booking volumes are typically seasonal
Figure 1: YTD (Jan-Jul) recovery in online traffic of select accommodation providers. Source: Author, based on data from similarweb.com
Inevitably, HSW will underperform generalist, large OTAs. Hostels’ typically young, adventurous travellers may prove un-budging, but limited social distancing measures will inhibit a rebound compared to hotels or house-shares. Across 1H 2020, traffic declined 73.16%. Despite the 2H being better, this conservative figure is used in later assumptions. BUSINESS WOES / CHANGE IN STRATEGY Figure 2: Recent underperformance of HSW. Source: Author, based on HSW financials.
COVID-19 follows a 2018 strategic shake-up, including a complete management overhaul. To shareholders’ disappointment, HSW is yet to reap rewards from its “roadmap for growth
” – such initiatives rarely yield instant results. At least we finally understand their direction. Traditionally, OTAs provide a centralised platform, allowing hostel goers and hostel providers access to a fragmented market. HSW aims to expand inorganically into hostel management services.
As management states in their 2019 annual report
“Taken together, Goki [who provide automated check-in/locking solutions] and Counter [who provide booking/payment management solutions] will help Hostelworld re-establish itself not only as an OTA/distributor with hostels, but also as a leading provider of low-cost hostel focussed technology solutions to the hostel industry”.
This strategy appears customer-centric. Hostel providers will appreciate fee reductions and efforts to improve the hostel experience; encouraging preferential listings. This is a good move, yet it does not address low switching costs for hostel goers. Q4 2019 and 2020 were earmarked as the beginning of HSW’s return to growth. Doubtless, this has been significantly derailed. Contrary, COVID-19 may provide an adoption tailwind for Backpack Online (Hostelworld’s management services unit), as hostels look to reduce costs and encourage traveller confidence.
Regardless, the ambiguity of their goals does not fill one with confidence of their execution. The “roadmap for growth” may be a good idea, but until there’s concrete evidence of its opportunity then it remains merely a ‘Call Option’. INVESTORS LOSE PATIENCE
This echoes investors’ frustrations as HSW has sank ~85%, which can be better understood through a historical lens. Hostelworld was controlled by private equity
from 2009-2015. An established OTA is an alluring proposition for a PE firm, due to its consistent cash-flows. Hostelworld has cancelled its dividend
policy. Thus, investors valuing HSW for its operating cash flows have left. A lack of top-line growth as well as shareholder remuneration explains a lack of demand for HSW equity.
FUTURE POSTIVE/NEGATIVE CATALYSTS REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL: TAILWINDS
Despite its origins in early 20th century Germany, hostelling is still an emerging industry. Early hostels were never considered profitable until open-source booking management software and OTAs emerged – incidentally, Hostelworld pioneered both. Now, “you’re charging 4-star rates and you’re offering a 2-star service, which is what makes it so profitable
”. Hostelling is expected to grow 7-8% annually
; much higher than hotelling at 4.6% annually
. This growth is attributed to burgeoning travel demand among young, ‘lifestyle’ travellers. Resultantly hoteliers, upstarts and investors have flocked. Hoteliers such as Marriott (MAR
) and Accor (AC.EPA
) have expanded their “budget” offerings. Simultaneously hostel chains (unheard of 20 years ago), backed by private equity, have emerged. Hostels now compete with hotels, as the observable differences lessen. Large, generalist OTAs – a la BKNG – benefit most, by offering all options to frugal travellers. Due to their niche, HSW can never compete on scale. Differentiation is therefore the strategy of HSW and operators.
Concerning OTAs specifically, they have enjoyed trends towards online booking methods – 87%
of hostel bookings are now made online. “Will the subsector grow?” is arguably the incorrect question; “will Hostelworld be the primary beneficiary?” better captures concerns of its weakening competitive position. REASONS TO BE CAUTIOUS: COMPETITION
It should be noted HSW is the dominant hostel-focussed OTA, having acquired
main rival HostelBookers in 2013. Despite this, HSW faces competition from many angles: namely large OTAs (BKNG, EXPE
, etc.) and hostels’ own platforms. As mentioned, OTAs covering multiple accommodation types have an advantage over Hostelworld. When considering travellers’ preferences when booking
, large OTAs “gives me more options”. “Saves money” is another top preference, which is best attained when booking direct. Further qualitative insight can be found on this solotravel
thread. Quantitatively, net bookings (Figure 2) have stagnated. A minor return to bookings growth in Q4 2019
cannot be given much credence, yet arguably an 85% decline in valuation is a tad extreme. Overall, it is difficult to pinpoint what advantage Hostelworld has. Low switching costs are concerning, particularly since many travellers appear to use the platforms to browse but opt to book direct – to support hostels and attain cheaper prices. This train of thought vindicates their redirection.
Figure 3: QoQ bookings across HSW platforms. Source: HSW 2019 preliminary presentation.
Analysts identify competition
as a key risk also. Failure to deliver their “roadmap for growth” will cause HSW to further succumb to competitive pressures. In 2020, HSW will comfortably survive, thanks to zero debt and a current ratio of 2.02 on current assets totalling €24M or ~35% of its current valuation (2019A figures
). Beyond is more uncertain.
Figure 4: Quick valuation based on P/S multiples in “Base” scenario. Source: Author’s calculations.
Revenue assumptions largely drive this DCF valuation. If HSW simply recovers 2019 revenues – based on 2019 P/S ratio – then investors would receive a 16.61% annual return. In a “Bear” scenario, CAGR is 9.41%. A significantly higher valuation could be seen in the “Bull” scenario, driven by higher revenue growth and a possible P/S re-rating.
Figure 5: Discounted Cash-Flow (“DCF”) valuation assumptions. Source: Author’s calculations.
Figure 6: Range of HSW valuations, across scenarios and discount rates. Source: Author's calculations.
Regardless of which scenario occurs, HSW trades in a range which aligns with the fundamentals. To minimise risk, HSW is attractive at a 21.45% return below 58 GBp.
Figure 7: \"Implied perpetual growth\", or the difference between applied and implied LT growth rates (this is a method I've kinda made up so if it makes no sense lemme know lol). Source: Author's calculations.
To test the robustness of the DCF assumptions a final valuation, a comparison against implied LT and “LT growth rate”, presents a fair value estimate of 56 GBp.
A minnow in the OTA-space, Hostelworld is undoubtedly a business with many challenges and unanswered questions. Recent director dealings
are notable, though recovery of tailwinds within ‘Travel & Tourism’ are crucial. Here, a recovery is probable but turnaround of its gradually weakening competitive position is still dubious. Doubling-down on its niche position as a hostel services provider is appropriate but success is also dubious. Yet, HSW trades at a valuation where, even if 2019As sales are never recovered or strategic ambitions are never realised, it presents an attractive opportunity for those will to take the risk.