There are plenty of reasons for Americans to feel frustrated today. An October Gallup poll states that 85% of respondents disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, thanks to a vitriolic political atmosphere that fueled the recent government shutdown and hindered debt ceiling talks. The economy, while it seems to be slowly but steadily improving, is still a concern for many.
But for all of America's troubles, its people are still proud. Most citizens still recognize the country's strengths, and are loyally doing what they can to support it. In our industry, the American spirit is alive and well via the Made in the USA movement.
While import business remains a significant contributor to the marketplace, demand for domestically manufactured products appears to have risen steadily in the years since the Great Recession. Just as consumers are seeking a greater awareness how their products are made (as exhibited in the sustainability movement), they're also becoming more interested in where their products are made.
For Home Accents Today's October issue, I wrote a special report about companies that are manufacturing some or all of their products in the United States, including Pasha Home Fashions, Couef, Eastern Accents, Howard Elliott and Thumprints.
In doing my research for the report, I came across a National Association of Manufacturers poll that found manufacturing is "viewed as the most important industry for maintaining a strong national economy, with 90% of respondents rating it as ‘important' or ‘very important' for America's economic prosperity and standard of living." A poll conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive found that 74% of respondents feel buying American-made furniture in particular is important or very important.
The vendors I interviewed cited some challenges to domestic manufacturing, particularly the cost, as well as many benefits, such as the ability to offer more custom options and the creation of U.S. jobs.
"Thumprints has decreased profit margins in order to manufacture in the U.S., but we see the importance of domestic manufacturing to both our customers and our country, so are willing to do so," said Allison Davis, CEO and designer of Thumprints, which was nominated to the Made in USA Foundation's Hall of Fame.
Some companies are using "Made in the USA" labeling as part of their marketing, proudly touting their products as American-made. AHS Lighting recently launched its aptly-named Patriot Collection of made-in-the-U.S. lighting, while The Hitchcock-Butterfield Mirror Company prominently features "Made in the USA" themes on its website.
The Made in America angle even continued to follow me as I started working on Home Accents Today's next Store Openings section. I received press releases from two new e-commerce sites with a "Made in the USA" focus — TrueToUS.com, which features more than 200 U.S.-made products, including home goods, beauty products, jewelry and fashion accessories, and Katy Skelton LLC, the eponymous retail site of designer Katy Skelton featuring made-in-the-U.S. home décor.
Equilux, a made-in-America pop-up shop, also opened in October at Shelter Half, a made-in-the-U.S. marketplace in Los Angeles. The Equilux line of home décor, accessories and jewelry made by artists across the country is curated by Micha Thomas, founder of the Made in America Project.
"We know through statistics and adjacent movements like farm-to-table and locavorism that more and more, people want to know what their purchases are made of, what economies they're fueling, and who is the person behind the creation," Thomas told the Los Angeles Times.
As with other movements before it, the recent focus on Made in the USA could amount to a lot of talk and little action for some. But based on those Gallup poll statistics, with a majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle frustrated with their government leadership, consumers may make more of an effort to put their money where their mouths are in an effort to bolster the economy.
What are your thoughts on the Made in the USA movement? Manufacturers, what are some benefits and challenges to producing domestically? And retailers, how important is it to you to carry products that are made in the U.S.?