American-Made Products in Vogue

Shortage of local made goods in retail stores
By Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra
August 30, 2013 Updated: August 30, 2013

Years ago, people bought locally and never dreamt of a market filled with foreign made goods. Now whoever wants to buy U.S. made goods has to search for a specialty store.

“Companies tell you [that outsourcing] it is to stay competitive, but the fact is, a product does not become cheaper when produced outside of the U.S.,” said Gunter Ahrendt, a person who published a list of more than 3,500 products made in America.

Local retailers want to sell foreign made goods. They don’t acknowledge that many Americans prefer to buy products made in America. 

“Very few local artisans, companies, and designers are able to get their goods stocked in area stores,” said a recent article on the Procured Design website. 

Americans Want Made in the U.S. 

A 2013 Gallup survey found that 45 percent of people polled made a great effort to buy U.S. made goods. Gallup learned that more whites and people that live in rural areas are looking for goods made in the United States and 64 percent of people surveyed would pay more for that product. 

ConsumerReports, a nonprofit organization, stated that 78 percent of polled consumers opted for American-made over foreign produced goods. More than half of the people said they wouldn’t mind to pay 10 percent more for appliances and clothes made in America. Twenty-five percent would even pay 20 percent more. 

In 2012, Perception Research Services International (PRS) found that at least 80 percent of people surveyed will buy a product if it shows the “Made in the USA” label. These shoppers indicated they will buy the American produced merchandise because it helps the economy and it is better quality. 
“Whether it is for quality assurance, to boost the economy, or out of patriotism, buying American-made products is becoming quite fashionable among U.S. shoppers,” said Jonathan Asher, executive vice president at PRS. 

Looking for the Real Deal 

“What many consumers don’t know is that companies very traditionally seen as American, from GE to John Deere to Levi Strauss, outsource varying portions of their operations overseas, so it takes a lot of attention and research to determine if you’re buying American,” said a 2013 Harris Interactive survey. 

To buy American is a guessing game because of the way the product is labeled. More than half of those polled would not consider a product American-made if the parts are produced abroad and only assembled in the United States. 

For example, orange juice labels may state the product is of the U.S. and Brazil. Does that suggest the carton is made in America, the orange juice from Brazil, and that it is filled into the carton in the United States?

“If not misled, consumers are at least confused … why a company named Florida’s Natural sells apple juice with concentrate from Brazil … or why a T-shirt with the words “Made in the” above the U.S. flag comes from Mexico,” states the ConsumerReports article. 

Lack of Enforcement 

“The Federal Trade Commission’s [FTC] priority is stopping the behavior [of misleading consumers], not punishment. If a company refuses, it faces civil penalties—in theory. In practice, the FTC has brought only one civil penalty case since the late 1990s,” states the ConsumerReports article.

The FTC is the agency that was tasked to protect consumers from false product origination claims. It is a violation if the product label strongly misleads a reasonable consumer. 

According to the FTC, a car, textiles, wool and fur products must disclose their U.S. content. Other products do not require information where they are produced. 

However, retailers rarely stock goods made 100 percent in the United States. Often goods might contain foreign parts and be assembled in America, or the label states “distributed by,” with the address of an American-based firm. Despite consumers’ willingness to pay more, they also need to invest some time find real goods produced in America.

Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra