Made in the USA is coming back. Once again it’s “cool” to buy American.
There’s even a song about it – Made in America. The Toby Keith lyrics tell of his old man, a former Marine, who’ll “spend a little more in the store for a tag in the back that says USA.”
For many American companies, a “Made in America” label is a significant competitive advantage. It speaks of a higher quality and better value.
In fact, a 2012 international consumer survey by the Boston Consulting Group found that more than 80% of U.S. respondents said they prefer items made in America – and are willing to pay more for them.
In a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 78% of Americans, when given a choice, would purchase the American product over an identical imported one. In addition, more than 60% said they would even pay 10% more for clothes and appliances made in America.
Google Trends also shows that people are seeking American-made products online. Searches for “Made in USA” and “Made in America” have climbed sharply from just a few years ago. “Made in USA” recently hit 94 on a 100-point scale, indicating peak search interest.
Many Reasons for the Growing Trend
So why the change of heart? Why do more consumers now want to buy goods “Made in the USA?”
Some say it’s about patriotism and pride. Others say it’s about helping their neighbors stay employed and shoring up the economy. Still others contend it’s about getting dependable, higher-quality goods.
In response to this upward trend, American retailers and manufacturers are gladly obliging consumers who demand US-made goods. General Electric is now making some of its water heaters and refrigerators at U.S. factories. Wal-Mart, which developed global sourcing to find the lowest-priced goods for customers, is buying an additional $50 billion of America-made products over the next decade. Even Apple, famous for the huge Chinese factories that make its devices, has announced it would be building some of its computers in the United States.
Since companies that manufacture in America often can’t compete on price, they compete instead on quality, service, or speed. They do all they can to aggressively defend their brand edge.
Drew Greenblatt, president and owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, a company that manufactures only in the United States says, “American manufacturers have a reputation for getting it right the first time. Many clients are comfortable that if they don’t get it right, American companies will bend over backwards to make good on it quickly.”
Another reason for the renewed demand for American goods is economical.
When many American companies first turned to Chinese manufacturers, labor costs were considerably lower. Now the equation is changing.
In the last few years, Chinese wages have risen by 15 to 20 percent a year. Even workers in India also are demanding and getting bigger paychecks. In many cases, American consumers don’t have to pay double for a US-made product. The price difference between American and foreign goods is now closer to just 20 percent more.
U.S. factories are also taking advantage of lower energy costs, thanks to oil and gas from the shale boom. On the other hand, companies outside the U.S. are paying higher oil prices. That means shipping costs are presently much higher for those companies.
Another edge is technological. Compelled to compete with companies that enjoy lower overseas labor costs, American manufacturers have invested heavily in cutting-edge plants. This gives them the advantage of manufacturing precision and flexibility.
“I can manufacture to tolerances of 10 microns,” Greenblatt says. “My Chinese counterparts can’t match that.”
Foreigners Find American Goods Appealing
The “Made in America” label also has strong appeal abroad. This appeal is rooted in global perceptions of the U.S. itself – a big plus for domestic manufacturers.
The Anholt-GfK Roper National Brands Index, a company which measures a nation’s international reputation, reported in an October 2012 survey that the U.S. ranked first for the fourth year in a row. Germany placed second and the UK third. China didn’t even crack the top 10.
Sirkin notes, “Even Chinese consumers are quietly recognizing the value of made in the USA.”
Survey results show that 50 percent of Chinese consumers indicated they would deliberately choose American-made products over Chinese ones – even if the cost is the same or more. Apparently, middle-class Chinese consumers are becoming more concerned about quality and environmental issues as well.
This is because Chinese consumers are worried about the safety and quality of the goods they are consuming, especially food and medicine. They’re also alarmed at how local manufacturers are not taking measures to avoid air and water pollution – serious problems in parts of China. Also, they prefer doing business with companies that produce “green” products.
Consumers Prefer Tools Made in America
The preference for American-made goods is particularly pronounced in product categories, such as hand tools. Hal Sirkin, a senior partner with the Boston Consulting Group says, “You want to have high-quality tools, because you’re going to have them for 20 years. Chinese products just aren’t designed for the durability that we expect.”
One company that makes high-quality tools built to last a lifetime is Wagner Meters. Recognized globally as one of the world’s premier moisture meter manufacturers, Wagner Meters states on its website that its meters are “proudly manufactured & supported in the USA.”
Company president Ed Wagner says his company takes great pains – and pride – in making meters for wood flooring professionals, advanced woodworkers, wood professionals and inspectors that are of the highest quality craftsmanship.
“We’ve had universities and third-party inspectors test our meters for reliability and accuracy, and in every test our meters outperformed competing brands that are made abroad,” Wagner says.
Wagner Meters’ entire line of wood moisture meters is made, designed, and manufactured at its headquarters in Rogue River, Oregon. “This way quality is assured during all phases of the manufacturing process. Professionals and hobbyists alike who use our meters appreciate the higher quality and value they offer,” Wagner adds.
In support of its claim of selling only the highest quality American-made products, Wagner Meters offers customers an industry-leading seven-year warranty on all its American-made MMC and MMI moisture meters.
Not Just the Name of a Song
Made in America is not only the name of a popular song. More consumers now want to see a “Made in America” label on the goods they buy.
American manufacturers are delighted to see the renewed interest – whether it’s out of a sense of patriotism, a desire to help the American economy, or the belief that American-made products are of higher quality.
Every issue is packed with highlights and tips from the woodworking industry and includes a special section devoted to wood moisture measurement.
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