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10 Secrets of Made in America Retail Goods
How often do you turn over a label in your T-shirt and see “Made in America”?
These days, it feels like the answer is “hardly ever.”
We were curious about how many goods – and which brands – are tailor-made right here in the U.S. of A., so we went digging for some answers.
Here’s everything we learned about products made in America – and the lives of those who make them.
1. They’re More Likely to Be Luxury Items
Whether or not it’s always true, American consumers tend to associate the phrase “Made in America” with high-quality goods.
“A majority of consumers, rich and poor, say they believe that American-made products have higher quality than imports,” reports Stephanie Clifford at The New York Times.
And because labor costs are higher in the U.S., American-based companies like Pad & Quill, a luxury iPad cover company that uses traditional bookbinding methods, tend to cater to wealthier clientele.
“I’ve never seen bookbindery quality better than in the United States because of the tradition here,” founder Brian Holmes told The Times.
His leather iPad cases may cost between $99 and $129.95 – but they belong in an epic tradition of hand-stitched leather goods.
2. They Cost More – But We Don’t Mind
Although goods made in America cost more than their overseas counterparts, most Americans don’t mind the idea of paying extra for something made right here.
According to a New York Times poll conducted in 2013, 46% of respondents “said they would be willing to pay from $5 to $20 more” for items made in the U.S., writes Clifford.
Still, when an AOL Finance article compared product prices reported in the Times, there was a pretty big gap between the cost of goods we manufacture at home and those we import from abroad – between 27%-120%.
Which begs the question: if you were faced with a 120% markup for an American-made product, would you pull out your wallet?
3. American-Made Bargains Come at a Cost
When you see a bargain-basement product that also bears a “Made in America” sticker, it could be a sign that the human cost is quite high.
According to a recent article from The Washington Post, the fashion industry is often fueled by illegal immigrants who work under the table for extremely low wages – sometimes as little as $5 an hour.
In order to pay workers the minimum wage, “clothing prices at many retailers would have to rise nearly 40 percent,” reports Chico Harlan at the Post.
That might pinch your wallet – but it would at least give workers a living wage.
4. These Boots Were Made by...Robots?
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in stories about automation in manufacturing.
Robots helping with mundane or repetitive tasks might sound cool, but when companies have the chance to automate, workers fear losing their jobs to better, faster, more efficient machines.
Still, automation’s not always so cut and dry, says Oliver Wyman, a tech reporter at Forbes.
When Wyman investigated automation in American auto plants and other manufacturers, he discovered that the best plants found ways to “retain and retrain” employees to use new technology.
This means there’s a good chance a robot helped paint your car...but not put in your windshield. Some jobs still require a human touch.
5. These Boots Were Made by...Prisoners?
We don’t often talk about inmate labor practices in the U.S., but it’s more common than you might think.
According to The Week, companies like Victoria’s Secret and UNICOR (which manufactures most baseball caps) have subcontracted inmates to stitch some of their products.
We bet that’s not exactly what you pictured when you headed to the mall for Valentine’s Day.
6. Making Them Requires Real Skill
The push to send all Americans to college, without exploring vocational, technical, or manufacturing trades, has made it harder to employ workers who can make goods in American factories, says factory owner Jay Dunwell.
“They’re harder to find and they have job offers,” Dunwell told the Christian Science Monitor of the workers he pursues. Dunwell is the president of Wolverine Coil Spring, a family business located in Michigan.
“They may be coming [into the workforce], but they’ve been plucked by other industries that are also doing as well as manufacturing,” he added.
That’s because today’s manufacturing jobs are competitive – they require apprenticeships and technical knowledge, not just strength.
Who’s Who of American Brands
How many brands do you know of that still manufacture their products right here at home? Here are a few of our favorite – and surprising – American brands still going strong:
7. The Most Recognizable Smell
According to a CNBC report, the majority of Crayola crayons are manufactured in Easton, Pennsylvania – right outside of Philadelphia.
This factory makes up to 3 billion crayons per year – that’s enough to fill more than half a million boxes of crayons every day.
But what makes Crayola so special, aside from the fact that they’re one of a few brands that still make their products in the U.S.?
According to a Yale University study, it might be the scent – Crayola crayons are one of the most recognizable scents for American adults.
How’s that for a marketing plan?
8. Need a Reminder? Thank the U.S.A.
If you find yourself reaching for a Post-It Note every time you need to remember to get something done, you can feel just a little bit patriotic.
The 3M plant in Cynthiana, Kentucky helps churn out more than 4,000 varieties of Post-It Notes ear year. You know, just in case you get bored with the regular old yellow version.
1 down, 3,999 to go!
9. All-American Kitchen
Japanese companies might have a leg up on auto manufacturing and household gadgets, but our kitchen staples are still quintessentially American.
Pyrex – the popular and almost indestructible dishware – has been around since 1915, manufactured out of a glass factory in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. (Those vintage Pyrex dishes come in as many as 151 patterns!)
And what would dishware be without a KitchenAid stand mixer to help you put food on the table?
That’s right, the brand responsible for everybody’s favorite wedding registry item is as American as apple pie (and made in Ohio).
10. Friday Night Football
Turns out America’s quintessential sport might not be baseball, after all – at least not from a manufacturing perspective.
According to CNBC, Major League baseballs aren’t even in made in the U.S. Turns out they’re made in Costa Rica.
Wilson, which makes everything from tennis balls to soccer cleats, has a factory stateside, though – and they stitch up to 4,000 footballs per day.
Since the company is also the sponsor of the NFL, it gives new meaning to that SportsCenter theme song. It really is “Friday night in America!”
While it might take a little bit of digging to figure out which American brands still have a manufacturing presence here, one thing’s for certain: Americans really love buying goods with a “Made in America” stamp of approval.
Whether you’re in the market for new kitchen gear, or you’re looking for something more high-end, retail goods manufactured in the U.S. offer better quality than imported products.
And while it might take more investment and manpower to bring costs down in the future, more companies than ever are finding compelling reasons to stay in the U.S.A.
Do you check to see where products are made before you buy them? Tell us what you think of American-made goods in the comments below:
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