Separating Made In America Reality From Rhetoric

Welcome to HomeWorld’s ninth annual “Made in the U.S.A.” issue (July 3, 2017).

That we’ve dedicated an entire edition to an American-made housewares renaissance the past nine years represents quite an achievement by an industry that for the most part had swung the production pendulum decisively and seemingly irreversibly away from the states.

Enflaming The Movement

The Made in the U.S.A. resurgence was sparked by an opportunity to exploit a close, more responsive supply chain as the cost of Chinese goods increased. It has since flared into an all-out movement enflamed even more the past couple of years by political promises of job creation and the end of unfair trade imbalances.

Putting aside nationalistic rhetoric for a moment, it is important to recognize most housewares marketers that now rely on production in China and other low-cost locales were helpless against the migration of manufacturing offshore and south of the border. Many no doubt would gladly reshore production if it were as easily done as said.

Where there are no immediately available, cost-competitive U.S.-made options to sourced goods, retooling for such options won’t happen overnight, which is about the speed things need to happen in today’s market.

That explains the mounting opposition to proposed border taxes. Such punitive tariffs are as likely to punish American consumers and businesses as those exporting the goods.

This is not to deflect from the considerably constructive impact of a deeper commitment to U.S. housewares production where it is and can be viable.

Expanded Capacity

Companies already equipped with domestic manufacturing footholds that withstood the pull from China have enjoyed a distinct advantage as the call has amplified for more American-made goods. Many have expanded production capacity to fulfill increased demand.

Veteran importers, meanwhile, have stepped up efforts to regenerate production and assembly in the U.S. And a new wave of inventors, makers and startups could become catalysts for the buildup of new U.S. factories.

Such a buildup wouldn’t come without new challenges.

Several U.S. housewares producers are confronting skilled labor shortages. Some also worry a looming minimum wage increase would move starting pay for entry-level service jobs closer to the higher wages required to attract and sustain factory workers.

Skills Competition

Current and aspiring domestic manufacturers would benefit from more government and private sector assistance to train a new generation of skilled line operators who otherwise could be lost to yet another hamburger franchise or the latest dot-com warehouse.

American manufacturing, even with advanced automation, might never be a practical option for the full scope of the housewares industry. That shouldn’t slow the movement by those willing and able to clear the hurdles separating Made in the U.S.A. rhetoric from reality.

Such achievement continues to merit an entire edition of HomeWorld.

Happy Independence Day!