So, we’ve been debating the plight of American manufacturing for years, but unfortunately the issue is more complex than we often think it is, or than we wish it were.
While its underpinnings are a complicated web of cost calculations, the made-in-America argument also has a consumer side to it. Our appetite for cheap goods means that America buys a lot of stuff that’s made elsewhere and in order to tip the scales in our favor, we need to be willing to consider items produced domestically, even if it means the price point is a bit higher.
Because, in the end, Americans want to buy American, right? One company is putting this concept to the test – and not just to prove a point.
You may remember American Apparel, the Los Angeles based retailer that faced many scandals over its lifetime before drifting into bankruptcy and being purchased earlier this year by Canadian based apparel company Gildan Activewear.
After merging the two companies, Gildan has tried to integrate the American Apparel brand into its wholesales and e-commerce business, but wants to cater to two types of customers – those who wish to stay true to the American Apparel brand and buy made-in-the-USA goods, and the other customers who just wish to buy Gildan branded products, which are produced elsewhere. So according to Bloomberg, shoppers have the option to click one of two options: made in the USA or produced overseas. But the catch here is that the made-in-USA option will cost the buyer up to 25 percent more.
It’s likely we’ll learn nothing from this – Gildan probably won’t share the results and if they did, they may not be relevant – American Apparel has brand power, and perhaps its buyers don’t see those products as apples-to-apples with Gildan activewear.
Whatever the results, we do know the deck is actually stacked against made-in-the-USA consumer goods because Americans are actually unlikely to spend more money on something that’s made-in-the-USA. According to an AP poll conducted last year, when offered the choice between a pair of $87 jeans made in America and a pair of $50 jeans made elsewhere, two-thirds of respondents said they’d buy the lower priced jeans.
In fact, even people in households earning more than $100,000 a year were no more likely to spring for the higher priced jeans.