Fashion designer Michelle Vale, who makes luxury handbags in New York City, thinks it’s important to buy American-made goods. “When consumers begin putting more of their money behind American-made products, it will certainly help shave a few percentage points off of our high unemployment rate by helping American companies grow and hire more local workers,” she said in a blog post.
She’s not the only one urging consumers to “buy American.”
ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer asked viewers to examine the origins of products in their homes and to consider buying American-made products. ABC, part of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), has a multi-media site with information about American-made goods.
Last year, Mark Andol opened Made in America, a store in Elma, N.Y. that sells only American-made wares. There’s talk of franchises. Another business, Made in USA Certified, certifies products made in America with a "Made in USA" stamp of approval.
All sorts of directories have sprung up listing American-made products, including:
They’re all tapping renewed consumer interest in American-made products. What’s spurring the interest? The simplest explanation: the terrible economy.
"Buy American" resonates with people who have watched their friends, family, and neighbors lose their jobs even as they continue to hear news about China’s prosperity. People feel the pain and want to find a way to do their part.
But that's just part of the story. There are other factors driving renewed interest in American-made goods. They include concerns about the safety of products made overseas and a sense of social responsibility: Consumers don't necessarily perceive the lowest-priced item as the best choice. Chalk up some of that to lingering fears from recalls of lead-ridden toys and tainted pet food imported from China a few years back.
Moreover, interest in American-made goods stems from more informed consumers who want to know where products come from, how they’re made, and who makes them. Is child labor involved? Is the environment being polluted in the process?
The “buy local” movement throughout American cities is a microcosm of the buy American trend. It's too early to say whether buying American will accelerate enough to boost the economy. But at a minimum, buying locally-made products might give consumers a lift.
Who benefits? Well, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) makes several of its models in the US, including the Focus and the Escape, and Spartan Motors Inc. (Nasdaq: SPAR) makes chassis in several US factories.
Privately-held Rickenbacker International Corp. hand-makes guitars in California; Mag Instrument Inc. makes its maglite flashlights in California; Weber makes its grills in Illinois; The Wiffle Ball Co. makes wiffle balls in Connecticut; and New Balance Athletic Shoe makes shoes in five New England factories.
But one company puts a twist on Made in America. Georgia Chopsticks, based in Americus, Ga., sells American-made chopsticks to China, which is running out of the source wood needed to make its own.