While shopping in one of our retailer’s stores in Tokyo five years ago, I picked up one of our Bailey hats, which featured an American Made Matters hang tag. I remarked to my colleague, who was of Japanese descent and very familiar with consumer interests, that I presumed that the American Made Matters tag did not resonate with this audience. She told me emphatically that the reverse was true. She said that American made was very important because of the craftsmanship and that Japanese consumers deeply appreciate the value associated with products made in America.
Recently, an AMM member who makes jeans told me that he has twenty times as much business in Tokyo as the United States. Tokyo is one city and has a population of 13.5 million people. The U.S. has a population of 323 million!
Many U.S. consumers profess to prefer U.S. made goods (see my May Founder’s Message here), but do not put their money where their mouth is.
With the strength of the U.S. dollar versus the Japanese yen, the cost of buying U.S. made products is usually much higher for a Japanese consumer versus a U.S. consumer.
The question is, do Japanese consumers value American craftsmanship—and take action on that—more than American consumers?
Americans have more to benefit from by buying U.S. made goods versus consumers outside of the U.S. We benefit by the creation of jobs, stronger communities with parks and services, and a stronger and independent nation. Also consider how it reduces our enormous trade deficit and the impact that has on our national security.
While many might find it difficult to rationalize paying $200 for pair of jeans or $300 for boots, consider the value over the life of the product. If you wear a $40 pair of jeans every week and it lasts just two years, your cost was 39 cents per use ($40/104 uses). If you wear a $200 pair of jeans twice a week for eight years, it will cost 24 cents per use ($200/832).
Some will balk at a $200 pair of jeans and say that the retailer is ripping them off. That same person may be calling for a $15 minimum wage. If it takes four hours to make a quality pair of jeans at $15 per hour, the direct labor content is $60 per jean. Benefits often add 40% for employers providing health care, retirement plans and vacation and holiday pay, bringing the cost to $100 BEFORE adding materials, overheads, selling, marketing, administrative costs, and profits.
We do have American Made Matters members who sell basic jeans made in the U.S. that retail at $40. These jeans probably have less durable material and less labor content. These makers have more automated processes.
Americans’ love of the discount and “scoring a deal” should be balanced with the product value over its life and the impact of our decisions as consumers on our future and our desired standard of living and quality of life.
Don Rongione launched American Made Matters July 4, 2009. Don’s father, Nick, was a cutter in a coat making factory, and instilled in him the importance of American manufacturing and buying American made products. As CEO of Bollman Hat Company, Don experienced the tragic decline of American manufacturing first hand when loss of major customers to foreign competition forced him to lay off 100 U.S. manufacturing employees. It was this experience that led Don to create an organization dedicated to educating consumers on just how important American manufacturing is to our country and our citizens. With the help of a handful of U.S. manufacturers, American Made Matters was born.
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