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Home improvement of the brave

BY Ken Clark

Three little words and three capital letters—“Made in the U.S.A.”—are having a big impact on the home channel. Of course, they always have. What’s different today is that there are new pressures acting on the supply chain. These pressures—including the need for speed and flexibility—are opening eyes to the benefits of domestic manufacturing. On top of that, a long-running recession combined with a high level of joblessness (unemployment swelled to 9.7% recently, the highest national average in 30 years) are rallying consumers toward pocketbook patriotism.

While researching the topic, we discovered a high level of passion.

One HCN reader, speaking on behalf of consumers everywhere, put it this way: “The words ‘Made in America’ should be our battle cry.”

Another said: “If we do not support a strong manufacturing base, our economy will deteriorate into a low-wage service-based work force, controlled by other countries.”

“I will gladly pay a premium on products Made in U.S.A. over products made overseas,” wrote another reader.

Strong words, particularly from HCN’s business-to-business audience.

But let’s be clear. Nike is not about to start making its running shoes in the United States. Their overseas-manufacturing model serves them well. Nike will argue that—in its own particular case—overseas manufacturing serves consumers well, too. And Nike will win that argument, based on the popularity of the swoosh stripe.

In the middle of planning an article about the seemingly growing advantages of domestic manufacturing, the following headline crossed the wires: “Whirlpool to close Indiana factory.” Production will move to a Mexico facility, the story goes.

The story drives home the fact that foreign manufacturing facilities continue to hold corporations under their low-cost spell.

Is that a bad thing? In 1776, Scottish economist Adam Smith sang the praises of the low-cost import this way:

“It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy,” wrote the father of modern capitalism in “Wealth of Nations.”

“What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom,” he continued.

I suggest we can safely substitute the word “company” for “kingdom.”

In our cover story, we set out to examine the case for domestic manufacturing, not to make a case for it. We found that there are advantages, and these are gaining in importance. One benefit is obvious: proximity. A U.S. factory has neither a container system nor the Pacific Ocean to navigate. Another is the surge of pro-U.S.A. shopping that’s fueled by concern over jobs and the economy.

When you talk to an owner of a U.S. factory, it’s hard not to root for them. They’re the mavericks. To the extent that they provide good jobs to Americans and sales opportunities to retailers, we wish them well.

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Window companies to form alliance

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Parkersburg, W.Va.-based Simonton Windows and Warren, Ohio-based Vista Window have announced a strategic alliance — Vista Window Company Western Division.

The new alliance seeks to sell Vista-branded products to specialty window retailers located between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, according to a release from Simonton.

“This arrangement is possible because of our companies shared set of values,” said Mark Savan, president of Simonton Windows. Savan said that the alliance will allow Simonton to take advantage of Vista Window’s innovative designs and move into a new market segment while giving Vista the advantage of Simonton’s logistical infrastructure and presence throughout the 48 continental states.

“Our enthusiasm for this new alliance comes because we can expand distribution of our product line significantly almost overnight,” said Dan McCarthy, CEO of Vista Window. “Simonton has one of the most impressive logistics systems ever created in our industry. Partnering with them allows us to reach a much larger specialty retail market than ever before.”

The company said the new arrangement would take advantage of the two company’s strong points. Simonton will handle the logistics and also share in the manufacturing of Vista branded products, while Vista Window will provide design and marketing programs.

Simonton produces Energy Star-qualified replacement and new construction windows and doors, including a line of impact-resistant products. Vista manufactures vinyl replacement windows and patio doors that are sold wholesale direct to remodeling professionals and through specialty retail channels.

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Verilux names new sales exec

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Verilux has announced the appointment of Jim Carr as its new VP sales, reporting to the company’s president, Nicholas Harmon.

Carr comes to Verilux from Philips, where he served as national accounts manager for five years. Prior to that, Carr worked for Lexmark and Power Sentry.

Headquartered in Waitsfield, Vt., Verilux makes natural spectrum lighting and sanitizing products.

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