MADE IN THE USA was once a highly valued assurance, an authentication, a symbol of high quality materials, careful workmanship, union made solidarity and national pride. Today, the product retail riddle is complicated by lofty idealism’s vs practicalities: should the bottom line outweigh the “savings” resultant of sweatshop/ neo-slave labor, questionable environmental standards, American job loses, compromises of quality controls, lessening trend-reactive mobilities, requisite brand P/R damages. For many US consumers, raised amidst predominately good times + middle class luxuries, the reason to read tags is often not to look for the MADE IN THE USA assurance, so much as to glean BRAND APPEAL, PRICE, TECHNOLOGIES, STYLING, COMFORT.
Consumers blame retailers for not providing credible selections of quality US-made products…Retailers plead that consumers are swayed mostly by price anyway, and that the manufacturers should solve this price riddle by any means necessary (whether in the US or elsewhere) Manufacturers fault retailers for driving production offshore by not being sensitive to the holistic values provided by costlier US-made products. The frank reality is that there was a time when the value of MADE IN USA plainly atrophied: FORD® PINTOS, DISCO INFERNOS, SANSABELT® LEISURE SUITS, WATERGATE POLITICS signaled a cultural shift wherein Americans became cynical of America. Designer clothes were Italian, Luxury cars were German, quality electronics were Japanese and gourmet food was French. The MADE IN USA stamp became meaningless, perhaps even laughable.
So the question still lingers:
COULD ANYONE CARE ABOUT MADE IN THE USA?
According to research conducted by Intersearch, NEARLY HALF OF ALL RESPONDENTS SAY IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THEM TO BUY PRODUCTS MADE IN THE USA when making major purchases like autos + appliances. OF THE FEMALES POLLED, 46.8% FOUND THE DISTINCTION TO BE IMPORTANT, of the MALES 44.4% ANSWERED LIKEWISE. But viewed in terms of age demographics, one wonders if newer generations are as compelled to care: of the 18-to-34 YEAR OLD SECTOR ONLY 32.2% FELT THE DISTINCTION WAS VERY IMPORTANT, WHILE 29% SAID IT WAS SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT. CONVERSELY, OF THE RESPONDENTS OVER THE AGE OF 65, 63.1% FELT IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT. Furthermore, ONLY 44.8% OF AFFLUENTS ($50K+ ANNUAL INCOME) FELT THE DISTINCTION WAS IMPORTANT, WHILE 49.1% OF WORKING CLASS (-$35K) RESPONDENTS VALUED THE ASSURANCE.
Todayʼs privileged youth seem the most apathetic to the MADE IN THE USA appeal, perhaps affluence + privilege itself seems to lessen the imperative for such values, while older working class Americans lament “those good old days” of American “can-do”-ism. Yet, the implication that mass consumers could care about this ideal, and the reality that the top-selling brands rarely fulfill such ideals leads us to conclude that EDUCATION INITIATIVES addressing the cause of MADE IN THE USA is required.
Do consumers really understand the severity of the issue (on par with Rain Forest Depletion or Whale Endangerment)? Can consumers be relied upon to put their money where their mouths are? Can American workmanship attain the level of quality to mean something again? Can consumers believe in such ideals again? And can a brand fulfill the lifestyle mission of fashion branding while assuaging the spiritual pride ideals of MADE IN USA, yet resolve the pricing realities of the marketplace?