Currently, the president of the United States is on a quest to seek out solutions for American jobs. While I admit I have not personally reviewed the plan, I can speak to what most small and medium business owners believe to be a solid plan for job restoration in the USA.
It’s simple, right? Just buy U.S. products. But it’s not that simple, because there are not many available to buy. Those of us who look at labels know this all too well. But depending on the major retailers to switch to American-made products isn’t likely to work, and here’s why.
I have personally contacted several CEO’s and CMO’s of some well-known and respected retail chains who market a wide variety of merchandise across the country. These business leaders contend they are not aware of a market demand specifically for American-made goods. That’s hard to believe unless you live on Mars.
I believe that small business retailers are smarter and certainly more agile than the big box stores and already know that there is an increasing market for American-made goods. Smart consumers understand that buying U.S. goods is a great way to support U.S. jobs. The retail price for American goods sold by independent retailers is comparable with imported goods sold by the large merchants, for the most part. But the volume presently goes to the mass merchants of course. Mass merchants sell imports because of the large profit margins they capture.
How is it that a department store can put $50 shirts on sale for $12? It is because they often work on 65% – 75% or more margins. Even in retail gift packaging, we have seen so-called import bargain store requirements for a minimum of 70% margin on paper goods. While none of us in business can really blame retailers for their high margin diet, it does come at a price. It translates into a loss of American jobs and an attitude that resists a return to U.S. products.
Small business retailers who work on standard keystone margins of 50% can and do market American-made goods, even if they have to produce them themselves. If a shirt is $50 at retail, you can buy one that is made in America at wholesale for $25. That pricing is competitive with a shirt from China until the merchant has a “sale” – a frequent occurrence. But the trump card is an awareness on the part of the buyer to make a commitment to purchasing U.S. goods. It’s tough, but not impossible.
I went to Sears just the other day. They had some nice polo shirts on sale for $8 – seriously cheap. But I know that a shirt should cost more, and sure enough, it was made in Honduras. It’s a race to the bottom. No way was I going to buy an $8 shirt – that just isn’t right. What the mass merchants are not picking up on is that people like me are starting to gain in numbers. More and more of us are simply not buying if it isn’t made in the USA.
My point to these CEO’s and CMO’s is that a 50% profit margin is a whole lot better than 0%! I think they will have to learn a lesson from us.
P.S. This week there have been articles in the news about U.S. companies retreating from China to bring some jobs back into the USA. China is seeing dramatic increases in the cost of labor and fewer workers at the factories. Also, China is fueling its own demand for goods and services. While this is good news, most of the imports coming from China are not from firms with stateside manfacturing. Those products will shift out of China to India or some other place eager to get the orders. As an aside, China is starting to become a market for U.S. goods. The Chinese see American products as sign of quality and prosperity… how insightful of them!
Made in America Resource Guide
Trying but Failing says
I’m attempting to find a contract sewing company based in the US for a small side project I’m developing. Four out of four US-based companies told me that they don’t want my business (I’m “too small” even though the companies I contacted specifically stated they take small jobs, and I agreed to minimums of $500.) Where does that leave me? Getting pricing from a company in Mexico that DOES want my business.
I desperately want a “made in the USA” seal on my products, but how can I make that happen if no one wants my business?
Lee Ann says
Robby…maybe you shouldn’t be buying from “mass merchants” if they don’t understand that there is a demand for USA goods.
Besides, doesn’t your company deal with smaller retailers not mass merchants? Maybe you should be shopping in mom and pop stores….the very store that purchase from you. Support your own customers.
Shirley Simmons says
As someone who is a professional seamstress most of her life, I see the quality ‘inside’ of garments & I know the comparison prices and controversy behind the almighty dollar paid for said garment. People don’t want to pay me $12.00 to hem a pair of jeans they paid $10.00 for at ‘the big store’. Jeans quality has took a tremendous downturn in the past years. What happened to jeans that you could pay $60+ dollars for and they last for years & years? You do well now if they last for 6 months and you still paid $60+ for them! I have been on a soap box for the last year every time I hear the prez talk about ‘jobs’ in America….I always say aloud..”Bring back the sewing jobs!”. I worked in the south at various textile mills when I was younger, and those are all gone now…thousands of jobs moved to other countries. Those women worked hard for relatively low wages; put clothes on their families backs; food on their table; paid their taxes; contributed to society; and had a feeling of self worth. I’m not denying people access to our wonderful country, but all of the ‘illegals’ that come here and take those menial jobs once they (hopefully) return and get established, is just not right! Make sure that they are a card holding American citizen before putting them to work at jobs that have long been overdue for long time citizens. We, the people of the USA, are very large consumers of clothing! People have to work to sew! Sewing is one of the first jobs in the Bible! Until people go naked, there will always have to be someone to create designs; create patterns; cut the fabric; sew the garment; inspect the garments;shipping/receiving; office workers; truck drivers; etc., etc., etc…..The list goes on and on! It takes a lot of workers to produce quality items!
Bring back sewing factories! Save our clothing! Save our jobs! :o)
amy p. says
I work diligently to buy domestic. I live in the rust belt. It’s not pretty.
Kristina Tackett says
Great article. I have been shopping Nashville wraps because of their USA commitment. My retail store is over 70% USA made & the more I bring in the higher my sales go. The people who dont understand why you wouldn’t buy the $8 polo don’t seem to remember that we all lived better when we all lived better. Someone asked me the other day if I was willing to pay a little more for an Xbox made in the USA. YES YES YES!!! If more
Americans are working I have more customers. When we have Americans not working or working for little money it costs us money in lost retail sales, health care, school lunches, food stamps, tax revenue etc.
Daniel Burch says
Great article! Timely and important,
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that American jobs left just as companies outsourced more and more overseas.
I witnessed this first hand when working for 2 different fortune 500 companies in the 90s.
First it was the labour intensive textiles and assembly. Then it progressed to high tech manufacturing: electronics, injection moldng, automotive, etc.. Now it seems just about everything is outsourced.
Now leaders of many large companies are saying that they are not aware of demand for Amereican made products. Really? Ask anyone in Europe, they will tell you differently.
When my partner and I started our business (Nadiflow Activewear), we decided that we would focus on American suppliers. It is was more difficult than we imagined.
But we remain determined to keep this as part of our business model. Not all of our products are made in America. But we have many that are made right here in the USA.
We have decided to sacrifice a little margin so we can offer products that are made in the USA
Sue Starre says
I absolutely agree with your comments. I am a label reader, but I would like to make people aware of a misleading label that I saw at Sam’s Club. I was pretty pleased, last week, when I saw a tag hanging on a piece of clothing that said something like Product of America. However, when I looked at the actual tag, sewn in the clothing, it was NOT Made in USA. I have to assume that the company is an American company and trying to confuse consumers by hanging a tag on the front of their merchandise.
We, as consumers, do need to step up. Stop complaining about all the jobs that are sent overseas and start making a personal protest. One by one, it will make a difference and it will get the attention of those money hungry companies. We all want to make a profit, but we need to decide at what cost! The government should tax the heck out of all those companies for bringing those goods into our country. We need to take care of our homeland and our own people in it.
Thank you for your blog.
DJ Carreiro says
THANK YOU! This was refreshing to know that you are taking a stand to utilize the best of the USA! As an unemployed college grad with 25+ years of business experience as an accountant I truely appreciate your stand of putting America back to work by purchasing USA products! Again, I say Thank You!
Sherry Callahan says
We own a fairly large furniture store and gift shoppe in a small town. In May, we did some research and marked every item in our store Made in America with an American Flag. We have over 500 flags displayed on furniture, rugs, art, lamps, silk trees and floral arrangements – all made right here in America. We have had a great response from our customers – they DO want to buy American when possible. We shop internationally for the best values in furniture and we always buy American-made products when the quality and price equal the best value OR when the value is comparable (or even close) to a product produced overseas. I would encourage people to just LOOK – American-made products ARE available and every time we buy something made by Americans on American soil we are investing in our Country and its people! THAT is an investment worth making!!
Natasha Loos says
Great topic!! Our store is 100% all American made items and the store is doing great. Our customers enjoy knowing that a guy in town makes our wooden toys, our t-shirts are printed locally on USA made shirts and so on. Sometimes we are cheaper than imported toys other times the quality of the item justifies the price. We vote everyday with our dollars and cents on what companies we want to see succeed and it will be interesting to see how retail will adapt.
I am a crafter and product designer. Most of my supplies come from China. But I take those cheap supplies and with my American blood, sweat and tears turn them into items that I make on American soil. At the point that I have created something new from raw materials I consider it Made In America. That $8 polo could be used by an American crafter to embellish, embrodier with their creativity and expertise. At the point that they have created something wonderful out of it I have no problem with it now being called Made in America.
Flare Elliot says
Hi Nashville Wraps!
First – great article! Secondly…the big guys don’t hear the ‘Why is everything made in China?’ wail because they are not in their stores everyday..simple. Third..THANK YOU NWraps for providing AMer-made product – and telling us what it is!! Fourth..for small retailers (I am a tiny 28 year old store..still paying the all the bills..(THANK YOU every single Heart’s Delights customer!!) – Amer-made product is out there..you just have to look for it…I carry Rolf cut crystal (PA made) – it is one of our best selling gifts..Manual Woodworkers and Weavers still makes all of their pillows, throws & wall hanging in USA – Channel Craft makes ALL of their cards, toy and games in the USA !! Hey Nashville Wraps…why not start a registry of American Made products that are sold by your customers…???? Great way for the little guys to help answer the why is everything made in China questions!
THANKS for taking the time to connectg with your customers!
Flare Elliot – Heart’s Delights by Flare!
Becs M. says
Thank you for posting your viewpoint concerning American Made items. I will do my best to support Made in America products. I don’t care what kind of “lies” big business or government wants me to swallow, I see through them. I am an unemployment victim because of out-sourced junk made in foreign countries. I am unable to afford health care at a decent price because of out-sourced junk made in foreign countries.
BUT- I can still eat on American made dishes and sleep indoors on American made sheets, because my stuff is OLD. “Vintage” or “antique”- I am proud that my American made household items have been well made or I would never have been able to pull off using them every day like I have for years.
I am proud to be an American Crafter, making only the best handmade gift items, jewelry, apparel, and accessories for the home. My business is new, small and I do not have a web site yet. I will likely barter handmade items in exchange for techno-knowledge.
I am proud to be a Nashville Wraps customer, and thank you for your time devoted to educating us & entertaining us.
I especially love to see the tutorials like making flowers from tissue paper. I save/recycle tissue paper, and have for years, to make into my own “handmade paper” art.
I also save brown paper packing (like kraft paper on rolls) from any company I order stuff from, to use as a canvas for paint and dyes, making my own gift wrap or handmade paper art. Sometimes I just protect my tabletop surface with it as I spray paint other items.
Keep up the great work and THANK YOU for supporting Hand Made in America. I will share your blog address where my friends can see the list of companies who manufacture in the USA.
Lisa Disterheft says
I have a saying about Chinese goods — it is most poignant to my industry, and is exactly why I decided to enter the field — costume jewelry. I was initially inspired by the lead recalls on Chinese products.
“The average Chinese product is a hazard to the people who make them, the place it is made, the planet it is transported across, and finally the person who buys it. — Enough is enough.”
The product I am developing is USA made from the first pin, right down to the shrink wrap. It’s not just about ‘global economy’ it’s also about not buying products from a country [or countries] with no regulations either to protect the workers or the end consumers. And BTW, the average consumer family only saves between $300 to $500 a YEAR buying imported goods. The ‘savings’ are an illusion — and the TRUE price, astronomical.
I have to say that if we as Americans don’t support our American companies then who do we have to blame? Even our President took it upon himself to get Ford to remove its latest tv commercials because the consumers in the ads said the reason they bought Ford was because Ford didn’t take a government bail-out. Wall street and our government has way too much say so in our everyday lives.Greed and bureacacy are the worst things that have happened to supporting our hard working Americans that are the true backbone of our Country!!!!!
I agree with some of the comments and not with others. The progression of business heading overseas was a gradual and systemic reaction to consumer demand for ever cheaper products. I can remember when even Walmart was mostly American made products. In fact Sam Walton used to pride himself on this fact and was proud of it. Just in the same way Americans clamored for ever cheaper fast food and grocery staples industry followed suit and instituted feed lots, strip farming, high use of growth hormones , etc. The end result is the shortened life span of our children. Before commercial production took hold most fruits, vegetables eggs, meats were produced locally or at least in sustainable ways. Neither industry is truly lost but consumers must be the one to make the choice. I applaud Robby Meadows for taking a stand on not buying the shirt. Agriculture is currently in a major infrastructure change as the giant corporations are now having to battle with 1,000 % increases in local farms, farm stands, co-ops and consumer choice. My family and I make the choice to buy organic local foods and in turn we are fueling this shift back to community supported growth and out of the hands of conglomerates that only look at gross margins. The same goes for products, packaging, etc. I now focus on where it is made and often pass on items because of this. Granted so few are made here but like the organic movement local crafting, natural and handmade products are making a comeback. No to mention recycling the old into new in order to keep them viable. Change will not happen without consumer demand. Make the stand in your community, you will be happy you did.
Amy K says
I applaud you (and those who commented) for your stand on purchasing Made in USA and wish more people felt the same way. My husband writes the popular blog http://www.madeinusablog.org. Please check it out, I think you would appreciate it. Keep up the great work.
Rachel Ostroy says
I completely agree. I stopped buying disposable clothes long ago. I don’t have as many clothes, but the clothes I have are made well and last longer. They aren’t all made in the USA, but I’m trying.
I have just started a company and was determined to have everything made in the USA. It took a long time to find a fabric made in the USA. The whole garment district in Los Angeles is like a ghost town. I know I haven’t picked the cheapest option, but I have picked a green option, an option one where I actually know the people who are making the product, and an option that is providing jobs near where I live.
And thank you to your company for providing what will be the green packaging materials I plan to use.
Carmen Glancy says
I diligently had to seek for made in USA packaging. I am trying to avoind anything made in China for quite a while now. I wish our media would support made in America items. It would be nice to have a USA supportive economy.
We live in a complicated world, and we can make things even more complicated. However, it makes sense to purchase items grown, and produced here in America first. Would you rather purchase produce flown in from other countries, or from your local Farmers picked that morning? Would you rather see textile manufacturers overseas, or produced in your state by your neighbors? I have worked in manufacturing most of my life in America, and I see the results of these plants closing down to small towns all across America. We will need to level the playing field for exports to be competitive.
There will always be $8 polos and people will buy them, but others will pay for it some way, some how. My point is that there are more and more people like me who are reading the labels and emphatically buying nothing but US goods on a personal level whenever possible. Its a market segment that is gaining a voice and many small business owners are picking up on it. When not possible to buy US from the mass merchants, I write to these companies and let them know my perference. I’m all about choices, market information and letting free enterprise work. -RM
We can blame a lot of this on Washington – do you remember all the flack about NAFTA several years ago? We are reaping the questionable rewards of that now.
Lee Ann says
You seriously think people should not buy an $8 polo shirt because it’s made in Honduras? Do you realize most Americans are struggling and cannot buy “Made in America” clothing? These people are thankful they can find an $8 polo.
Another fact, it’s a global economy. America needs to become competitive again. You cannot simple say, “Buy American”. Example, most of the parts on GM cars are foreign. Are you really “Buying American”? Then there is the secondry market, say oil is drilled in Venezula and processed in US refineries and sold in US gas stations. By saying, “Only buy American” you would be hurting those US refineries and US gas stations. So you are actually doing damage.
My point is, things aren’t so simple.
As a small hand-crafted business, American made has dwindled. I saw this effect and major impact in the furniture industry in NC when all the furniture was made in China with cheap finish because of labor and other cost factors. Personally, if you want to send your company over seas, by all means do so, however, you should pay higher taxes for the lost revenue that you are registered in the state with, no perks and no breaks (tax or otherwise) for going overseas. Keep it home and you get the benefits that an American company, small or large can expect. After being laid off from a non-profit organization making a good salary (age also against me), decided to turn to my passion of creating. Since I work hard at making new creations and trying to build up so that a small store on the corner will help me hire a couple of people one day is my goal. Considering the state of world affairs much less how our economy has been hit, I believe it us ‘little guys/gals’ that may be the hopes at least in our own towns, cities and across this nation. My mark up stays within the reasonable range; there is no way in good consciousnesss could I ever believe in a 60-80% mark up for a bar of hand made soap. Yet, it is also the perception that has to be over-come that somehow the smaller companies dont quiet carry the quality and selection as ‘the big guys’; this is further from the truth. Having grown up on the stories of how my family survived the Great Depression, again, I think the home touch, friendly mom-pop type companies may yet make a difference where they are and help keep our economy growing. We dont receive bailouts, promotions from the top brass in Washington, or even a little blurb in the news about home-town America, but I dont think I am alone when I say, the little people (me and all who believe in inqenuity, hard work, and satisfaction that their product is the best on their manufacturing level) will die by the way of the dinosauer; we may just be the spark that keeps the lights on all across America. Just my thoughts, a few cents for inflation for what it’s worth.
Mary Long says
Your statement about buy American ignores the fact that in America many items can only be purchased from large corporate manufactures who do cost accounting on everything they produce.
This seriously limits consumer choice as selection becomes more and more limited as competition is bought our or merged. This happens to not be the case in China where every body with a little cash can start a business and the variety and choice is trully astounding. There is no corporate culture there but in fact a more free market competitive economy economy than we have. I do not beleive that the problem is China or even cheap inport goods ( as you know you import things from China yourself) but the problem is the large strangle hold big business has on America.
Carol Manning Grant says
”While none of us in business can really blame retailers for their high margin diet, it does come at a price. It translates into a loss of American jobs and an attitude that resists a return to U.S. products.” Despite saying you cannot blame them, you clearly are doing so. If retailers don’t demand “high” margins, then they don’t stay in business, and their employees don’t earn wages…