In Hartville, Ohio, sits America's largest independent home center at 305,000 sq. ft. In the middle of Hartville Hardware sits a house constructed entirely of U.S.-made products — from the foundation to the sheet rock, paint and appliances.
"There's definitely been an increase in people wanting to buy U.S.-made products," says Howard Miller, president of Hartville Hardware, a member of the Do it Best co-op. "General Electric makes washers and dryers in the U.S. and people love that. They're asking for U.S.-made all the time."
But that wasn't always the case. Three years ago, when Hartville brought in some Made-in-USA Carhartt apparel that retailed about 10% higher than similar imported product, people wouldn't pay the extra money. "Now the sentiment has turned," Miller said. "They're aware of the value of buying American-made product."
The folks back at Do it Best headquarters in Fort Wayne, Ind., agree that Made-in-USA has become more important to consumers in the last few years. "We have seen a renewed interest in these products and have addressed it in several ways," said Steve Markley, Do it Best's VP merchandising.
First, the co-op has made it easier for consumers to identify American-made product by calling them out in the catalog and in advertising, giving Do it Best stores the option to use Made-in-USA-focused circulars that tie into Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Within departments, Do it Best stores can use special Made-in-USA endcaps, signage kits, shelf danglers, bin label and stickers.
Do it Best members also have access to an increasing number of U.S.-made products. In fact, Markley said: "When making a decision on a product, country of origin is a consideration, and we've added products because they're U.S.-made. I think the awareness of the average consumer is higher on this issue, and retailers are responding."
Regarding Hartville Hardware's 1,850-sq.-ft. American house, Markley said he's glad to see a retailer out there that's so much in tune with its customer base, adding: "There's an appetite from the consumer for product made in America, and they've recognized that and used it as a vast selling tool in their store."
The only product the store with in the store couldn't showcase was reasonably priced U.S.-made lock sets. That explains the use of "assembled-in-USA" in that category.