By Wanda Jankowski
With national unemployment still high, the issues of domestic job creation and the return of manufacturing to the U.S. have become talking points in the stump speeches of potential presidential candidates. Here suppliers who offer products U.S.-made spell out what it is that they actually make in the U.S. and if it’s getting any easier to make it.
Q. What parts of your product lines are actually made in the U.S.?
REALITY CHECK: There’s no doubt that today’s marketplace is global. Even though the suppliers contacted produce goods in the U.S., most of them source some raw materials or manufactured components from abroad.
Avanti Linens: “Our core towel lines are embellished (sewn and embroidered) in our Moonachie, NJ, facility, with the towels coming from Cambridge in Ontario,” says Jeff Kaufman, president/coo, Avanti Linens. “We also bring in some specialty towel programs finished from overseas, along with kitchen, table and bath accessories.”
Down Inc.: “A very high percentage of the products produced by Down Inc. are manufactured in our Grand Rapids, MI, facility,” explains Donna McLin, general manager, Down Inc. “As with all manufacturers in our competitive mix, the outer shell components for our comforters and sleeping pillows are imported. We then fill and finish them in our Michigan plant. Ninety to 95 percent of our natural-filled products are filled with down and feathers that are a product of the U.S.”
Pendleton: “Our wool fabric is woven in our Northwest mills in Oregon and Washington,” says Robert J. Christnacht, division manager, home, Pendleton Woolen Mills. “All our blankets are finished in the U.S., the majority of our men's apparel is sewn in North America and our women's in Asia. Our home goods, besides blankets, are sourced worldwide.”
Woolrich: “Many of our lines are domestically produced, like our wool blankets, indoor/outdoor rugs, dinnerware and garden decor, wall decor and Santa collectibles,” says Sharon Kepley, home licensing manager—home furnishings, Woolrich. “Bedding ensembles, furniture and our new pet beds are internationally produced.”
Kevin O’Brien Studio: “Cutting and sewing and part of the fabric manufacture is done in Philadelphia, PA,” states Kevin O’Brien, owner, Kevin O’Brien Studio.
Mike + Ally, Inc.: “We cast and plate all of our metal bath accessories in either New York or Rhode Island. We are able to maintain an ‘as needed’ inventory by ordering smaller quantities – but we pay for this with higher prices,” explains Ally Rosson, president, Mike + Ally, Inc. “All of our bath accessories are hand enameled by local artisans in our factory in Long Island City.”
Home Source International, Inc.: “The fabric/cloth will come from abroad and we will do the cut and sew, and finishing here in the U.S. The U.S. manufacturing platform will be a hybrid model similar to what has happened in the past 10 to 15 years with automobile manufacturing in the U.S. from overseas car manufacturers, particularly like Kia and BMW,” Keith R. Sorgeloos, president/ceo, Home Source International, Inc.
Ogallala Comfort Company: “Ogallala Comfort Company’s unique Syriaca clusters are grown, harvested and processed in the U.S. Our Hypodown comforters, pillows and mattress enhancers are all made in the U.S.,” says Herb Knudsen, president/ceo, Ogallala Comfort Company. “Our high-quality white goose down is purchased from U.S. producers. The high thread count, down-proof, 100 percent cotton shells, which are not available from U.S. producers, are purchased from international sources.”
Faribault: The Little
Mill That Could
Established in 1865, The Faribault Woolen Mill Co. based in Faribault, MN, has had its ups and downs—and closings and openings. Fortunately, the mill is once again open under the leadership, since July 2011, of Chuck Mooty, ceo.
Manufacturing is fully integrated in a single facility. “We believe our niche is truly in producing all products in the U.S. We can be competitive when it comes to pricing,” says Mooty.
The reopened company has been producing blankets, throws and scarves since September 2011. They are made primarily with wool—50 percent from New Zealand and 50 percent domestic—and wool/cotton blends, but the company also claims to be the only one making blankets with blends that include ingeo fibers and is looking to add alpaca in the future. (Shown is Faribault’s Lodge Stripe Throw in two colorways.)
Mooty has observed rising consumer interest in American-made products. “We had a pop-up store at the Mall of America in November and December 2011,” he says. “Most consumer activity there was because they were wanting to support American-made product.”
Employees number about 40, with almost three-quarters of the staff rehires who had previously worked for Faribault. “We have employees who are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Most employers are not looking to hire people in that age range, but our workers have expertise in areas where not a lot of new talent is being cultivated,” Mooty explains.
He also sees a trend among consumers toward desiring less disposable, more quality-oriented goods. “You have to be a quality player and the only way to show that is in the production and finishing capabilities,” he says. “Our former employees, now current employees, know that and are dedicated to achieving it.”
Cuddledown: “All down and synthetic comforters, pillows, featherbeds, throw pillows and mattress pads are manufactured—put together—domestically. We have a new facility for manufacturing in Yarmouth, ME, that is triple the size of our former facility. Offices will be moved to Yarmouth by the end of 2012,” relates Michelle Harrison, chief managing officer, Royal River Trading, the exclusive wholesaler of Cuddledown product.
Louis Hornick & Co.: “Whether products are 100 percent made in the U.S. or made in the U.S. of imported fabric, it is an unparalleled asset in supply-chain optimization and a critical component in meeting and surpassing the quality and delivery expectations of retail customers—and the American public,” says Louis Hornick III, coo, Louis Hornick & Co. “It is important to distinguish true American companies making product in the U.S., such as us, from the international corporations that hold a limited American operational presence in order to claim in the press that they are an American company. When you buy American, you should really be buying American.”
Q. Have you seen an increased interest in “made in America” goods from retailers and consumers?
REALITY CHECK: Many suppliers see more interest from both the residential and hospitality sectors, but making a sale still depends on the product—its quality, design and pricing.
Interestingly, Pendleton’s Christnacht says that the company’s international customers are “the most vocal about U.S.-sourced product.”
Avanti’s Kaufman presents a different view, saying, “We have not heard from a single major retailer about it being important. We do hear from some independent retailers who support ‘made in America’. We believe that the interest level in products made here will continue to grow and will eventually be part of the decision-making process for retailers, in addition to price, which is driving most decisions today.”
Mike + Ally’s Rosson says, “We have been producing our goods in New York for more than 20 years and I can’t say we have won over any sales based on our production in America. Design and price are still the leading factors – not necessarily in that order.”
The interest in U.S.-made goods, according to Sorgeloos, has more to do with competitive advantages than national pride. “There is a keen interest on the part of U.S. hotels and retailers to buy ‘made in America’ due to flexibility, shorter runs, nimbleness, quickness to market, but at competitive prices, which is the platform being structured by Home Source International, particularly in top-of-bed products. The product must fit a value quotient,” he says.
Harrison believes Cuddledown’s growth is due not only to its ‘made in U.S.’ claim, but to the strength of the brand. She also notes that interest from the hospitality sector is prompted by the fact that points toward LEED certification can be gained by using domestic goods.
Q. Is it becoming harder or easier to maintain operations in the U.S.?
REALITY CHECK: The prognosis seems brightest for smaller companies that take a hybrid approach, importing some raw materials and manufactured items, and finishing or producing a percentage of goods domestically.
McLin relates that Down Inc.’s vertical integration enables quality control throughout the process and quick response to customer needs. “We have much more flexibility with our business model than we would have if we were importing fully finished products,” she says.
“The answer is both harder and easier,” says Kaufman. “Costs continue to escalate here—healthcare, wages, insurance—that make producing here more expensive, but the various pressures of overseas production-supply chain issues—rising labor costs, political instability—makes it a less attractive alternative. We will always have a manufacturing base here, but there are many products that are not available here, regardless of price, so we will continue our hybrid approach to delivering the right product to the market.”
With costs such as rent, health benefits and commuter taxes rising, Rosson believes, “Only the highly automated or very specialized will survive—there is no room in the middle.”
At work in the Avanti Linens factory in Moonachie, NJ, are, left to right: Eliott Koplitz, Melissa Simmuro, Arthur Tauber and Chris Martin. Arthur Tauber, chairman, Avanti Linens, states, “Yes, with importers you get a price advantage, but you also have to be aware of what you’re getting. I know that we can get our goods made here in North America and shipped to us quickly. I know the colors will be consistent and the quality will be high. All in all, products made in America are good for a number of reasons: we’re supporting our country, we’re supporting labor here and we have a tremendous amount of control that you don’t have when you’re dealing with foreign resources.”
Home Source Unveils Strategic Hybrid Initiatives
Home Source International, according to president/ceo Keith R. Sorgeloos, will be opening an India-based Asian sourcing office, headed by Mr. T. Periaswamy, vice-president of sourcing for Home Source, that will cover India, China and Pakistan, the countries from which most development and sourcing for the company is done.
Home Source is also opening a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in the southeastern U.S. The hybrid model will allow the company to develop, search and source finished fabric for the manufacture of top-of-bed products, such as comforters, quilts, coverlets, shams, decorative pillows and window treatments for the hospitality and retail sectors. In charge of the U.S. facility will be Dennis Ruud, vice-president of manufacturing for Home Source.
Also coming to fruition is Home Source’s warehouse, distribution and supply chain initiative set up one year ago and recently automated. “We are continuing to solicit worldwide manufacturers, importers and retailers in utilizing our sophisticated supply chain services via housing and shipping product to retail partners and supporting overseas manufacturers who need to supply U.S. retailers all the way through and including a direct-to-consumer model,” says Sorgeloos. This effort is under the jurisdiction of Roger Atkins, vice-president of warehousing, distribution and logistics, and Chris Bajenski, vice-president of information systems.
Home Source is also concentrating efforts on its high-end specialty store Home Source Brand business with the appointment of Andrea Bruckner as eastern vice-president of sales, who joins Janette Huff, western vice-president of sales, in the brand-building effort. Other personnel moves include the appointment of Scott Sorgeloos to vice-president of product development—bedding, who replaces recently retired Phyllis Moore.
Scott will be the complement to the vice-president of product development—bath, Eric Loges.
In January, Home Source also opened a new 32,000-square-foot showroom in Atlanta at AmericasMart.
Sorgeloos concludes, “There are ways to bring hybrid manufacturing to the U.S. in a cost efficient manner, while at the same time creating American jobs, especially in depressed economic areas of the country, where textile labor was decimated in the past 10 years.”
For suppliers’ views on whether or not a resurgence of U.S. textile manufacturing in the next decade is possible, read the “Industry Views”.
- Avanti Linens, 800-360-0836, avantilinens.com
- Cuddledown, 888-323-6793, cuddledownwholesale.com
- Down Inc., 800-552-9231, downinc.com
- Faribault, 507-412-5510, faribaultmill.com
- Home Source International, 404-682-9820, homesource-online.com
- Kevin O’Brien, 215-923-6368, kevinobrienstudio.com
- Louis Hornick & Co., 212-679-2448, louishornick.com
- Mike + Ally, 718-729-6622, mikeandally.com
- Ogallala Comfort Company, 800-658-4370, ogallalacomfortcompany.com
- Pendleton Woolen Mills, 503-226-4801, pendleton-usa.com
- Woolrich, Inc., 800-995-1299, woolrich.com