October 24, 2012 in Business

Latest ‘buy U.S.’ has some traction

Consumers willing to pay a bit more, analyst says
Nedra Rhone McClatchy-Tribune
Those labels

Check labels. “Made in the U.S.A.” is not the same as “Assembled in the U.S.A.” Shop around. A growing number of retailers – online and brick and mortar – are stocking made-in-America products and have already done the research and vetting for you.

There’s a 2001 GM Chevy Suburban parked in Melissia Perry’s garage. Next to that is a ’68 Ford Mustang. Inside her Woodstock, Ga., home are fully functional radios and televisions from the 1940s.

Perry is surrounded by items from the past, but she’s an example of the future – one in which more American consumers are seeking out and buying 100 percent American-made goods.

“It is very difficult to find a truly ‘made in America’ product,” said Perry, a married mother of four.

“How many plants have to shut down or jobs have to be lost because we do not manufacture in this country anymore?” she asks.

For several decades, “made in the U.S.A.” – a label once proudly imprinted on everything from apparel to cars – hasn’t just been hard to find; it’s been a hard sell.

In the minds of many American consumers, foreign goods came to represent superior quality at a lower cost. Shoppers showed their preference with their purchases.

Several previous attempts to invigorate consumer interest in American-made products fell flat, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for market research firm NPD Group, but this time around the movement seems to have more traction with a broad range of consumers, including younger generations.

In the past two years, retailers, fashion designers and even musicians have all seized some aspect of the modern made-in-America movement.

“Made in the U.S.A. now is all about patriotism,” Cohen said. “It’s about supporting jobs in the U.S. rather than shipping them off.” Traditionally, U.S. manufacturing has come with a higher cost, but as overseas labor costs increase, the gap is closing, said Jason Boswell, vice president of sales for Buford, Ga.-based Okabashi Brands Inc. Consumers, seduced by decades of low-cost goods or facing economic constraints, have resisted paying higher prices for American-made products, but this, too, is slowly changing, Cohen said.

“Consumers will say, ‘I’ll pay (up to) 10 percent more (for American-made goods).’ Some will say up to 25 percent more,” Cohen said. “I believe half of that to be true, but the fact that they are willing to spend a little more tells you something.”

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