As noted yesterday on homeworldbusiness.com, Walmart has taken a lead position in the retail industry when it comes to promoting American manufacturing. However, it isn’t alone. Vendors report more interest from many retailers for products made in the United States. At the same time, a number of retailers have launched initiatives that demonstrate their own approach to sourcing products in the U.S.
Wayfair Builds On U.S. Furniture Tradition
Wayfair, for example, has been working with U.S. upholstered furniture manufacturers in a custom product program that focuses on rapid production and shipment.
The online retailer is using domestic manufacturing and its own systems to get upholstered furniture orders to customers faster than has been typical in the marketplace, the company noted, which gives it an advantage even beyond the relative value it tries to provide. However, Wayfair is leveraging domestic products in another way as well: building on regional traditions in its approach to the consumer.
In setting up its custom upholstery program, Wayfair senior director of category management Ryan Fitzpatrick told HomeWorld Business that the online retailer merchandises by, essentially, telling a story, and it can use regional traditions to powerful effect. When informed on Wayfair.com about its custom upholstery vendors maintaining furniture making traditions in states such as Virginia and North Carolina, the retailer engages customers not only based on tradition but also in regards to the quality that commitment and expertise in manufacturing provide, Fitzpatrick noted. In that way, consumers have more attractive attributes to weigh when they consider a piece of Wayfair custom upholstery furniture.
“So it is not just about price,” Fitzpatrick said.
Like other retailers, Wayfair has been looking at the balance between domestic and international sourcing in the wake of the West Coast port slowdown, Fitzpatrick noted. Yet, it also has considered with special attention another factor in sourcing products in the U.S. Rapid feedback and the ability to move product quickly allow for swift adjustment in a home furnishings market that has become increasingly diverse in styles and is sometimes subject to speedy change in tastes.
At times, Wayfair can even anticipate the market. “Our upholstery suppliers are not sitting on a lot of inventory, so we can do a lot of testing,” Fitzpatrick said.
West Elm’s Regional Approach
In another appeal to region, West Elm is branding itself as a Brooklyn company, playing on its headquarters location and the hip reputation the New York City borough has won over the past several years. In fact, the company has been building up its operations in the borough, which now include its photo studios and design center. Although a division of San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma, West Elm is tapping into a northeastern vibe to help it establish a separate identity that would appeal to younger and more urban-oriented consumers.
However, the retailer recognizes that its shoppers are not only concerned with larger trends but familiar traditions as well. So it is incorporating locally developed products in its various stores as a means of establishing a depth of commitment to community in the United States, particularly in its stand-alone and store-within-a-store consumables-oriented Marketplace operations. The Costa Mesa, CA, West Elm store-within-a-store market operation held a Taste of the Community event on July 11, as announced the day before on the location’s Facebook page, featuring products made in Orange County. The focus was food but, in its social media promotions, the company staged edible products using a range of tabletop products and promoted its full range of goods.
Of course, both vendors and retailers have to consider what products can be made economically in the United States, and how, if they are to develop sustainable Made in the U.S.A. programs, whether local or national identification is predominant.
Lamps Plus’ U.S.-Made Focus
At Lamps Plus, Barry Ward, table lamp buyer, said Made in the U.S.A. has become a bigger consideration.
“Customers are looking for that more than in the past,” he said. “We’re trying to find key partners and show we are doing as much as possible.”
He said at some pricepoints, particularly those under $100, it’s difficult or impossible to get goods of the right design and quality that are Made in the U.S.A. However, Lamps Plus is doing more with vendors who manufacture in the United States, Ward said. Online, Lamps Plus alerts customers to a product’s Made in the U.S.A. manufacture in the product description, as in the case of the Robert Abbey Audrey Steel Blue Ceramic Buffet Lamp. As regards Stiffel, including in the case of the Burnished Brass Urn Table Lamp as staged on the Lamps Plus website, the retailer’s product description declares: “To date, every item from Stiffel is proudly made in their Linden, NJ facility.”
For more on Made in the U.S.A., see the July 6 issue of HomeWorld Business.