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‘Made In USA’ Potential Rests With Retailers

Welcome to HomeWorld’s fourth annual “Made in the U.S.A.” issue (July 8, 2013).

That the industry has increased its support for this special edition every year is a testament to the resurgent importance of U.S.-produced housewares.

The revival started not just as an opportunistic marketing bloom tendered by those already making goods here. The buildup of new domestic manufacturing infrastructure during the past four years helps cement the argument that “Made in the U.S.A.” has a widening, firm foundation.

The movement initially owed much to trade and operational considerations: the rising cost of Chinese-made goods combined with the need for more responsive supply chains to serve retailers wary of early commitments and excess inventory. 

Critical Juncture

This expanded the base of U.S.-made products upon which more patriotic motives that evoke consumer pride could thrive: the stimulus for more American jobs; the promise of improved product quality and safety; and the overall goodwill generated by U.S.A.-rooted marketing.

The industry has arrived at a critical juncture in the made-in-America revival. The next moves could determine how fervently the theme remains in the foreground of product development, retail marketing and consumer consciousness.

As with many hot marketing trends, there can be a rush to fulfill surging demand. In this case it has led to questions about what authenticates American-made products and who is policing such assertions.

Nonetheless, buyers for retailers of all sizes are hungry for domestically produced options. 

Promotional Themes

The challenge has been on vendors to offer more U.S.-made goods while keeping pricing competitive against low-cost imports. Despite piles of market research confirming a consumer preference for U.S.-made products, even at a price premium, consumers don’t always buy how they say they would when answering a survey question.

Chain retailers want U.S. goods. But they may be reluctant to bear the accountability of curating such products into prominent promotional themes when so much of their selections are still made in China and other foreign countries.

Genuine Attraction

It is noteworthy that some independent retailers (with pinpointed local clientele and more intimate control over product mix and presentation) and e-tailers (which can identify and adjust selections without physical merchandising restraints) have been more proactive in the creation of “Made in the U.S.A.” programs.

For now, it’s left to vendors to meet growing retailer demand for U.S.-sourced products. And it’s often left for consumers, if they are so inclined, to discover such products on the shelves without much direction.

It could serve more retailers well to spotlight such goods from time to time despite the challenges of doing so. They could capitalize on a genuine sales attraction while fostering the type of goodwill that builds repeat business across a store’s entire selection, no matter where something is made. 

If “Made in the U.S.A.” becomes nothing more than a feature denoted by an American flag on the packaging, the perceived advantage it has achieved the past four years could fade, possibly squandering the extra effort retailers are making to procure such goods and vendors are making to deliver them. 

Retailers now hold the keys to presenting U.S.-made as a benefit worthy of closer consideration by all links in the supply chain from the factory to the consumer.