Trend Report - December 2013

Making It in the USA
By Wanda Jankowski

American Rug Craftsmen The Dryden Collection woven area rugs are made from the durable, soft SmartStrand® Triexta fiber and crafted on Van de Wiele looms. American Rug Craftsmen rugs are 100 percent made in the U.S. Shown is the Chapel design, which features tile patterns in shades of mesquite, tundra and latte.
Denali Home Collection The Moose Blossom throw in taupe is an American Dakota design. The double-sided throw, made with MicroPlush™ acrylic, is also offered in blue.
Avanti Linens Greenwood sheared velour towels are offered in ivory, java and mocha and are made with 100 percent cotton, exclusive of decoration, in Canada and embellished in the U.S. with imported materials. Bath, hand and fingertip towels and washcloths are included in the collection, as well as accessories, rug and shower curtain.
Orion Ornamental Iron With 3D Drapery Hardware, starting outside of brackets, iron U-bends extend from both ends of the rod, then curve around to place the finials in front. Finials can also be manually adjusted to be above or below the rod. Almost all of Orion’s finials are available for use with the system. Rods are 1-inch diameter in either round hollow smooth or hammered styles. Choose from 35 Iron Art™ finishes, six Italian finishes or a custom finish.
Avanti Linens By the Sea, offered in white (shown), blue fog, mineral and rattan, is 100 percent cotton, exclusive of decoration. The sheared velour towels are made in Canada and embellished in the U.S with imported materials. Coordinating accessories, rug and shower curtain are available.
American Rug Craftsmen The Madison Collection rugs, woven with polypropylene on Van de Wiele looms, feature traditional patterns, ikats, geometrics and botanicals, and are available in a variety of sizes. American Rug Craftsmen rugs are 100 percent made in the U.S. Shown is Burlwood in dark butter, which presents a garden design with a hint of Moroccan influence.
The Northwest Company The American Flag woven tapestry throw is made with 100 percent acrylic and measures 46 by 60 inches.
Pendleton Woolen Mills The Thomas Kay Collection is named for the company’s founder and celebrates the firm’s heritage of weaving in America since 1863. Shown is the lambswool plaid throw with leather carrier. It measures 54 by 66 inches plus a 3-inch fringe.
Woolrich, Inc. Pinecroft in toffee is made in the U.S. with 100 percent New Zealand wool for Woolrich Home by Karastan. The toffee colored center is framed with a rust border accented with pinecone clusters in the corners. It is offered in a range of sizes from 2.5 by 4 feet to 8.6 by 11.6 feet.
Veratex, Inc. Legacy, Bella and Princeton sheet sets are all made in the U.S. with 100 percent Egyptian cotton and are offered in several colors.

Suppliers with U.S.-based production speak out on manufacturing realities and consumer reactions involved in homegrown sales

After decades of celebrating the ability to reach out globally for raw materials, finished products and design inspirations, a growing shift by consumers, retailers and manufacturers toward a greater appreciation of goods made here at home is not an easy demand to satisfy. Bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. is a bit like riding a bicycle in a tub of molasses. It’s a sea change fraught with prickly challenges as well as great benefits. Here, leading suppliers who offer goods made in the U.S. in varying degrees serve up their insights.

Has Demand Grown?

Who cares where products are made? It seems a growing number of retailers, consumers and manufacturers are interested in U.S.-made products for a variety of reasons.

“Consumers are taking more of an interest because of a concern about a number of issues—jobs/economy, product safety and some degree of patriotism,” says Jeff Kaufman, president/coo, Avanti Linens. “Retailers are interested because they’re hearing more about it from consumers, and manufacturers are trying to give both retailers and consumers what they want.”

“Customers for the first time are considering where the product is made prior to purchase,” says Stanley Mieszkowski, vice-president of sales, The Northwest Company. “Walmart’s Made in America push has influenced suppliers to domesticate production. There is a sense of pride when a consumer purchases American-made goods.”

Dan Sinykin, president, Monterey Mills, a division of which is Denali Home Collection, elaborates: “Human rights, safety concerns and the desire for proper labeling (animal fur in products that are labeled faux fur), etc. are all sensitive issues that can appear when products are imported. I think, and hope, that there is a growing segment of the population that sees the direct correlation ‘Made in U.S.’ has to our country’s economic growth,” he says. “As evidenced by our nation’s number one importer, Walmart, and its recent push for Made in America products, I believe we will see growth in products manufactured in the USA.”

Brandon Culpepper, vice-president of specialty sales for Mohawk, which produces the American Rug Craftsmen line, explains that internet use has produced more educated and inquisitive consumers. “They want to know if the company who manufactured a product is responsible with its people, with the environment, and if they have a reputation for standing behind their products,” he says.

Sunil Patel, Orion Ornamental’s ceo, notes that not only are some consumers willing to pay more for quality U.S. goods, but several factors are enabling the U.S. goods to be more competitively priced against imports. “With manufacturing costs going up in countries like China due to upward pressure on raw material prices, energy and labor costs, American manufacturers now stand to gain in making quality products at acceptable price points,” he explains.

Quality is a key issue in valuing U.S.-made products over imports in the eyes of consumers. “Many consumers have seen a lessening of quality in many products that once were manufactured here and now are only imported. People want jobs to come back to this country, and a higher level of quality in the products they buy,” says Avi Cohen, president, Veratex.

Janette Huff, vice-president, design & marketing, Home Source International, cites key criteria that ultimately influence consumer and retailer product selections. “Those three factors are price, product and service. American manufacturers not only have to provide consumers and retailers with quality products at a great price, but we need to provide services that set us apart from our overseas counterparts,” she says.

U.S. Made Vs. Sort Of Made Here

There are still a few mills in the U.S., such as those operated by Woolrich and Pendleton, that can claim their products are truly manufactured in the U.S.

“Consumers continue to express their appreciation for Pendleton blankets, which have always been made in the USA in our two Northwest mills—two of only a handful of woolen textile mills still operating in America today,” says Bob Christnacht, director of worldwide sales for Pendleton.

“We proudly operate the oldest continually running woolen mill in America, right here in the town of Woolrich, PA, where our blankets, like the Freedom Throw (on the cover of LDB Interior Textiles), as well as the wool fabrics for the seats on our rockers, chairs and benches are all made,” says Nick Brayton, president, Woolrich Inc., who notes that the company’s lines of indoor rugs and pottery are also made in the U.S.

However, most home textile suppliers who make or assemble some portion of their goods in the U.S. are forced to go abroad for other portions.

“The biggest challenge in having products made here is that they aren’t made here—there is virtually no textile manufacturing domestically and the decorative bath products were never made here. Our model allows us to own inventory in component parts and finish the inventory [in the U.S.] based on demand with a very quick turn-around,” explains Avanti’s Kaufman.

Veratex’s Cohen cautions that companies who do not make 100 percent of their goods in the U.S. must be careful in adhering to government regulations on how to label them. Veratex has a manufacturing facility in California and produces about one-third of its products there.

“A lot of people are starting to get on the made-in-USA bandwagon. But they bring in pillow shells from China, for example, and finish them in the U.S.,” he says. “In our experiences with Costco, they required us to prove what we said was made in the U.S. If you import the shell from China and claim it’s made in the U.S. on the label, it is not correct. Retailers will get in trouble if the labeling is not in compliance with government regulations.

“Some suppliers may get away with it for awhile, as some did with inaccurate claims regarding thread count and green-washing issues in the past, but not for long,” says Cohen.

“Threading Your Way Through The Labeling Requirements Under The Textile and Wool Acts” at business.ftc.gov details how products must be labeled when it comes to country of origin and manufacture. The regulations state: “Products made entirely in the U.S. of materials also made in the U.S. must be labeled ‘Made in U.S.A.’ or with an equivalent phrase. Products made in the U.S. of imported materials must be labeled to show the processing or manufacturing that takes place in the United States, as well as the imported component.

Products manufactured in part in the U.S. and in part abroad must identify both aspects….If a U.S. manufacturer uses imported greige goods that are dyed, printed, and finished in the U.S., for example, they may not be labeled ‘Made in U.S.A.’ without qualification.”

Benefits Of Making It In The U.S.

“Quality is the foremost benefit of drapery hardware made in the USA,” says Patel. Cohen adds that faster delivery, the elimination of container load commitments and better quality control are also significant advantages.

Monterey Mills’ Sinykin relates, “We have the ability for small production runs, a complete in-house design staff for custom manufacturing, and our own R & D and Quality Control departments that guarantee the product we deliver will meet our strictest quality requirements. We have fast turnaround for easy fulfillment and two domestic cut-and-sew operations: one in North Carolina and the other in Wisconsin.”

“We avoid high transport costs, currency exchange variation, uneven labor costs, and time delays inherent in getting the product from an overseas manufacturing point into the American market,” explains Mohawk’s Culpepper. “The net effect is we can marry great service with great product, which will help retailers increase their turn and ROI, making them more money.”

Mieszkowski explains that with shorter lead times, “Retailers are able to adjust future orders on the most current rates of sale. There is more overall flexibility. “

At Pendleton, Christnacht sees a different advantage altogether. “Navajo weavers have the opportunity to showcase their heritage, craftsmanship and native culture through their unique style of weaving; an expertise and skill that has been passed on from generation to generation. Consumers today are looking for authenticity as well as accessibility and value,” he says.

Challenges Still To Be Conquered

Although the quality of U.S.-made drapery hardware is superior, according to Orion’s Patel, he notes, “Lower price points of imported products that are not comparable in terms of quality is the biggest challenge facing our industry.”

Veratex’s Cohen also puts pricing at the top of the challenge list. “Our labor costs are and will remain higher than imports, but the retailers that can show and explain the differences in the products that are manufactured here and explain why these products demand a higher retail value will be the ones that will win and overcome the ‘price war’ that exists in many product categories today.”

For Sinykin, raw material supply also makes the list. “Many don’t believe we actually make our Home Furnishing line from scratch. We are an entirely vertical manufacturer; blending fiber, carding, knitting, coating, finishing, cutting and sewing. But there is one unique fiber that is made overseas and we have been on allocation for over six years,” he says. “The supplier is too busy supplying manufacturers in China and our ability to source this material has limited our growth. With our recent acquisition of Glenoit Fabrics TT, we hope to work with them to increase our allocation and rededicate their commitment to U.S. manufacturing.”

In spite of the obstacles on the road to making quality goods in the U.S., more and more companies are persevering in finding ways to capitalize on and grow home-ground advantages.

“As a global brand, to remain competitive we have products made in the U.S. and overseas. We’d make it all here if we could, but it’s just not possible currently with the volume of products we need to produce,” says Woorich’s Brayton. “Along with pricing, finding the skilled labor who can produce the products we require is difficult. But like our customers who embrace adventure every day, Woolrich is striving to meet the challenge by bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. one step at a time.”

Resources


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