Monday, June 16, 2014

Is made in America a practical reality?


Made in America. It's all the rage amongst #menswear-types.

Yet the reality is most Americans aren't willing or able to spend the extra money on clothing and other goods made in the good ol' U.S. of A.

That was the argument of an article published at the weekend in the Business of Fashion. In the opinion piece, Edward Hertzman writes:
This doesn’t mean niche premium brands cannot create healthy, profitable businesses producing domestically and selling to socially-conscious, patriotic or otherwise discerning consumers. But, realistically, only a small fraction of American consumers are willing to pay premium prices for US-made apparel. The majority of consumers think of fast fashion, discount retailers, dollar stores and coupons when it comes to purchasing clothing. Country of origin is simply not top of mind.
And why? It's all about cost, as U.S. manufacturing wages are significantly higher than elsewhere. Again, quoting Hertzman:
My stance on American apparel manufacturing is very simple: it won’t work at scale because of simple economics. US cut-and-sew wages have increased by more than 13 percent in the past seven years (inflation adjusted) to an average of $14.79 an hour. Let’s assume an average workday is eight hours. That comes to $118.32 per day, a figure that stands in considerable contrast to wage rates in low-cost countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Sure, manufacturing has in limited numbers been returning to the United States after decades of being made in China. Yet for most Americans, the clothing labels still say imported.

At the cheap end of the spectrum, the country of manufacturing is more often than not Bangladesh. India and Vietnam would seem to hold the middle ground with a slightly better brands than the ultra-cheap being made in these countries. On the more expensive end of the spectrum — think Brooks Brothers — Hong Kong (as opposed to mainland China), the Philippines and Malaysia are common.

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