The 4th of July seems like an appropriate day to consider the challenge retailers today face in sourcing American-made products.  We  just got word that Peggy Karr Glass will be closing at the end of this month. We of course wish Peggy and Tim Karr all the best in their retirement, but the loss of this popular New Jersey-based vendor will leave a big hole in our selection of American-made merchandise. We were even able to do special orders for exclusive designs through Peggy Karr Glass, which is almost impossible on a small scale when dealing with an overseas source.

Studies have shown that consumers like to buy American, providing that the price is the same as if the products come from abroad.  We once carried two lines of cookware: All-Clad, which thankfully is still made in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and almost identical one made in China that was significantly less expensive. I would explain the differences in the lines to customers, and let them make up their mind as to which they wanted to purchase.

Can you guess which one they chose? This is a bit of a trick question, because the answer is neither. They were embarrassed to say they wanted the product made in China, but they didn’t want to spend the extra money (or perhaps couldn’t afford to) on the American-made goods.

I take heart in the burgeoning maker movement in the US, because the key to having customers select goods made in the US is to offer fresh, original products that are not the same as imported goods. Craftsmanship and a personal back story also matter.  

But it will still often come down to price, and that is another reason that Peggy Karr Glass will be missed. Over the many years that we bought from them, they created new designs every year, their quality was consistently high, and their products even came individually gift boxes — with a brochure talking about the company, and also the fact that the items were all made in the US. And yet their prices were within the range that our customers considered acceptable for gift items.

If you have American-made goods in your merchandise mix, it’s important to support those vendors so that we’ll have them for years to come.  And if you don’t have any domestic suppliers, this summer’s trade shows are the perfect time to make a special effort to look for the Made in American designation. 

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

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