This “best of” Specialty Shop Retailing blog is updated from a popular past post.

With the 4th of July a few days away, it seems appropriate to revisit the challenge retailers face in sourcing American-made products.  The situation has not gotten better since I last wrote about it 8 years ago. 

Studies at that time showed 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: one made in 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 less expensive one, but they didn’t want to spend the extra money (or perhaps couldn’t afford to) on the American-made goods.

The burgeoning maker/craftsperson movement has helped offer consumers more goods made in the US, It helps to have fresh, original products that are not the same as imported goods.  Craftsmanship and a personal back story also matter.  Be sure to use store signage and social media to let your customers know about the origin of your American-made merchandise, and to show your pride in vendors who make their products here.

Our support of domestic suppliers is essential to assuring that we’ll have some American-made goods available in the future. A poll in 2023 shows that the majority of people prefer to buy goods made in American when presented with that option, if the price is the same.  But the domestic alternative is not often available: The Atlantic reports that in 1980, 70% of the clothes we wore were American made. Today that figure is 3%.

if you don’t have many American suppliers, the summer’s trade shows are the perfect time to make a special effort to look for the Made in American designation. If we want customers to shop local, we need to also support domestic vendors.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder