American made apparel is beginning to make a comeback after years of decline. Finding made in the USA clothing can still be difficult, but American made stores are on the rise.
I remember a marketing class I took back in the mid-1990s at Cal State Long Beach while working on my bachelor’s degree. Forgettable at the time, that class now comes into my thoughts quite a bit.
Why now? In a word, GLOBALIZATION. Today, “globalization” and “American-made” don’t belong in the same sentence.
For the class, we were required to do a SWOT analysis on an American company that had gone global. For those of us who aren’t marketing geek’s, SWOT stands for Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.
Globalization in the mid-1990s was experiencing a new surge of growth in a decade when clunky cell phones were replacing beepers and dial up internet was still the thing. At the time, going global personified strength and opportunity, veiled by threats of others who wanted to follow suit and take market share. But globalization wasn’t for the small guys yet.
Fast forward a mere 25 years to today and domestic manufacturing seems non-existent. American made apparel is difficult to find. Most clothing being American made is done so by smaller brands. Finding the American made things we love is downright difficult. This is why that class sticks out in my mind. How did manufacturing shift so vehemently in two short decades where so little is made in America?
American Apparel: Not So American Made Stats
Manufacturing is incredibly broad, so let’s talk specifically about American apparel. Specifically women's clothes, since Mallory Bloom after-all, is a faith based Christian women's clothing brand made in America.
- In the 1960's, 95% of American apparel was made in the USA.
- In the 1990's, that fell to 50%.
- Today - only 2% is made in the USA.
Made in America: Other Stats to Think About
- In a mere 2 years (pre-Covid), ocean-bound international freight costs have increased 8-9 times.
- Transit times have increased exponentially with international textiles and the like, such as fabric, elastics, and zippers taking 10-13 weeks for delivery. Port congestion is still a major issue extending delivery times.
- Supply chain issues… where to start… and another topic for a different post.
Made in America: Globalzation Issues
Why are we having these MAJOR problems in the United States, a country that has been incredibly prosperous? One that has innumerable resources, including qualified human talent?
Largely because as a country, we have outsourced a very large percentage of product manufacturing overseas due to globalization. Most economists thought that was a great thing back in the 1990’s. But how about now?
It may be cheaper to hire labor overseas and manufacture clothing there, but at what TRUE cost?
Consider the cost of unsafe working elements in factories, or the inhumane use of child labor, plus the massive increases in shipping costs, and the extended (and often) late delivery of your product putting your reputation on the line.
For an American apparel brand, what is the environmental impact of shipping fabrics, buttons and the like overseas for manufacturing, then shipping the finished product back to the US for selling?
Don’t forget to quantify somehow the cost of losing a good amount of control to the overseas factory, and the potential inefficient use of your fabrics, thread, buttons, zippers and elastics.
Because a hard cost can't be placed on many of these issues, but it's certain they exist, does it still make sense to produce overseas?
For Mallory Bloom, as a Christian women's clothing brand, no it doesn’t make sense. And for many other small businesses here in America, they don’t believe producing overseas is good for them either. This is sparking a revival of American made goods.
The Desire for American Made Goods
The American made revival is slowly waking up all around us. Marketplaces like Etsy, Made In America Movement, All American Clothing, and Made In America Store are platforms supporting products MADE IN AMERICA.
Yes, Etsy sells international products too, but its filter allows viewing American-Made products.
Supporting American made businesses isn’t a Democratic or Republican position. It isn’t a liberal or conservative stance either. It’s a MOVEMENT to SUPPORT COUNTRY.
According to the Reshoring Institute, approximately 70% of respondents in a survey conducted with 500 Americans across the country said they would rather purchase items made in America, with over 80% saying they would pay 20% more for products produced in the states.
Personally, I prefer to purchase from local businesses when I can, and I am comfortable paying a higher price because there is a perceived value in supporting my community. If a local option isn’t available, I look for American made in another state.
And Americans are beginning to feel this way too, which is why these platforms are succeeding. American apparel is slowly growing...support local.
What increases the perceived value of something I want to buy?
- Stricter US standards lend to higher quality goods.
- Pride in workmanship is inherent for brands MADE IN THE USA.
- Customer support garners more positive experiences when customer services is US-based.
- Satisfaction in supporting a small business that has a location, name and/or face, not just an email submission form.
- Real and legitimate customer reviews from various sources.
Made in America: Personal Lesson Learned
Over this past weekend, I purchased a Dutch oven on Amazon after researching the company that was selling it. I was happy to see they are located in Tennessee and still had American made products according to their website. I was pretty excited to try my hand at making tamales with it this coming weekend.
But the box that came to my front doorstep had large red words “MADE IN CHINA” on it. Clearly, the wrong Dutch oven is sitting on my doorstep. But no, it was the right one. The one made in China, apparently.
Logging back into my Amazon account and viewing the product page and reviews, I was pretty disappointed. SUPER disappointing actually, seeing the tiny print on the Amazon product page stating some of the items are made in China. I should have read the product reviews first, but in my excitement to buy an American manufactured Dutch oven I didn’t even think of it. A lot of the reviewers had the same experience and weren’t happy about it. This isn’t Amazon’s fault. But it's still pretty disappointing once again seeing how hard it is to find something as simple as cookware made in the USA.
How You Can Support the American Made Movement and Grow the Revival
As a consumer, the power lies in how you spend your money.
Amazon is an amazing platform to shop quickly, cheaply, and effectively. As are many other platforms on the internet. And I will continue to shop on it.
But as my Dutch oven story goes, it was my job to do better research. The Dutch oven is going back to Amazon tomorrow. Yes, I’m returning it. It’s not defective and it’s probably a good item, but I want to support American made, and support American made I will do. It is my money after all. And you can do the same. Let's help local and small businesses grow by supporting them with our purchases.
So what can you do to support and grow the American Made revival?
- Don’t simply believe the words “Made in America” on a web page - do your research.
- Check out the website and see where items are shipping from.
- Look at the Contact Us section to see if you can easily contact them.
- Find out where returns go.
- On their website, scan through the Terms of Service to see where governing law resides – is it in the US? Or internationally somewhere?
- When shopping in a store, where does the label say the garment is from?
- Google the company to check out reviews from various platforms, not just their own website.
- Ask those you know where they shop for American made goods.
- Look to see what small businesses are in your community that make goods locally and nationally in the US.
- See if the company is transparent with their story, location, contact information.
- Once you find a quality American made product, most small businesses will be very thankful if you become a repeat and loyal customer.
Call to Action
Take a few moments to see the online platforms named above, such as All American Clothing. And just to be clear, I don’t represent any of these platforms. I don’t receive pay from them, have no stake in them. I simply support them with my purchases because I believe in American made products and keeping small businesses alive in this great country.
Look at the clothing, the brands, the websites, and you’ll see that the American made movement is REAL and the American Made REVIVAL is growing. Will you be a part of it?