Originally Posted by jragosta
That's true, but there's also a chicken and egg thing.
1. I wanted to buy a patio furniture set a few years ago and wanted one made in the U.S.A. I was willing to pay a significantly higher premium than most people can. Walmart and other big box stores had patio sets for $150-200 -- but all were made in Asia. NONE of the discount places offered any American made patio sets. The local 'boutique' lawn and garden place had the same Asian patio sets for around $250-300 - so the boutique was about 100% more expensive than the big box stores. They also had a couple of American patio sets for $500-600. So, while the premium was 100% compared to the Asian products in the same stores, it was more like 300% compared to Asian products in discount stores. Using the same ratios, if the big box stores were offering American product, it would probably have been $300-400 which more people could afford than $500 or 600.
Thus, the drive toward big box and discount stores taking over the market --- combined with their refusal to carry American product makes it much harder for even people who WANT to buy American to do so.
It's not that big box retailers "refuse" to carry american products, it's that most american companies cannot produce in the volume of a company like walmart, or for the price point of walmart/discount retailers. Additionally, Stores like walmart operate on razor thin margins. Several years ago that margin was they sold $35 of product to make $1 profit, I don't know what it's like now. They actually had a push years ago to push "made in the USA" products, but the initiative faltered because when presented with two items (one 200, one 300) the customers overwhelmingly chose the 200 product, and because stocking items that don't sell well costs money, they cut more expensive products. There is a great book about this, (and other things) called "The Walmart Effect." It's worth looking at if you're into economics.
For most consumers (you and I being exceptions) the only thing they really care about is the final price tag, even if they state otherwise. Sure, they may say they want "American Products" but they'll buy things stamped with "Made in China" anyway, because it means they can buy more of them.
2. A few years ago, I decided to buy a new fishing rod and reel - but wanted it to be American made. I went to 3 major sporting goods chains and none of them had a single American made fishing rod and only one or two reels. They did, however, steer me toward an aisle which had a bunch of imports with names like "USA Pride" or "American's Best" or something like that. A consumer who didn't pay close attention to the "Made in...." sticker could get duped into buying imports.
The bottom line is that after considerable research, it appears that we've nearly lost our fishing rod manufacturing capability in this country. I did find a local supplier who makes rods but they are made by hand in small quantities. As I said, reels are a bit better, but even for reels, we couldn't supply demand even if we wanted to.
We've lost our ability to make a number of different products in this country.
Which leads me to this ^ and it is a real problem. Since customers are driven to discounts and discount retailers, it means that if American companies can't compete on price, they either move or they fold. And then if someone tries starting a new company, marketing as "Made in the USA" it's an uphill battle to try and get enough revenue to remain solvent, both because of economies of scale, and because of our culture's addiction to the cheapest price.
There is a market for American products, but it's not one that would do well in a big box retail. it's something that will be relegated to specialty stores and online distribution until more people make the conscious effort to purchase items made in the USA, even at a premium.
It is a "Chicken/Egg" problem in the sense that one problem makes the other worse, but the only people who can stop it are consumers. Companies won't take on the higher costs of building here (and stores the Long-Tail inventory) without seeing a demand. I try and buy local when I can, and you're right it is difficult, but I also know that most of the people I know (even those of my friends who are part of the "Green" movement, still will choose foreign made items based on price.