Yesterday we talked about the producer of the American-made movement. We discussed their challenges and their goals, their aspirations and their fears. Today we switch our gaze to something referenced in yesterday's article by Mark Bollman, the consumer. As Mark said, "Americans should view their purchases as a vote, and that vote has the power to vote for quality American-made goods that stimulate business, jobs, and the economy." Today we will talk about that voting process and we will talk with American consumers like you who have cast their vote for American-made and let you know just why it is that they have.
America is a consumerist economy, it is run by the everyday citizen's decision to purchase their every necessity and those luxury items they desire. However, in this age of everyday low prices, the American consumer is no longer asked to make a long-term decision about the products they are buying. Our citizens are taught to buy for the short-term, to buy things that are popular for a short time and then dispose of them just as quickly. It is that kind of thinking that fuels an economy, but also ruins it.
For instance, the most disposable necessity that we purchase is toilet paper. There are roughly 500 disappearing paper mills in the United States, and while they do produce toilet paper, the majority of toilet paper consumed in the United States is foreign-manufactured, with Angel Soft and Quilted Northern being the two major domestically-produced brands. Cosco nets $400 million in annual toilet paper sales alone for their highly popular foreign-manufactured Kirkland toilet paper. That is $400 million in purchases that could easily be reinvested into our economy by purchasing domestically-manufactured brands.
What we need in this country is for a domestically-manifactured shift in necessity purchases. The American consumer simply needs to discover which brands are manufactured here and which ones to buy. There are plenty of websites devoted to compiling lists of American-made toiletries and other necessities, which are the easiest and most comprehensive guide to ensuring your dollar votes for American-made while purchasing even the most ordinary products.
Duane and Cynthia Young Jennings, owners of American luxury bath-and-body brand Sweet Harvest, say that they choose to buy American-made because, "American-made products reflect freedom. Americans are creative, ingenious, industrious, and very entrepreneurial. Having a society and governance model built on the idea of freedom brings these qualities out in people and allows them to flourish. It is something in our culture, our spirit, the American story if you will, that results in unique, special, and “quality” products being created and produced here."
They are not alone, many people are choosing to buy American to rebuild the idea that the American people are an innovative and resourceful people. People are looking at this resurgence of American-made goods as a return of American ingenuity. It is sometimes beneficial to look at the purchase of American-made products, especially bigger ticket items as an investment. When you purchase American-made you are purchasing more than a product, you are purchasing jobs, community development and economic growth, and you are helping to restore the American economy and dollar to its former glory. Every dollar spent on American-manufactured goods brings us closer to that goal.
When buying clothing, consumers should refocus their attention to the idea that a product should last, and not only that, but that the amount you are paying for it has been invested in the process of manufacturing it as well. While a pair of cheaper foreign-manufactured boots may cost less than the domestically-produced 1000 Mile line by Wolverine, only the Wolverine product is doing its part to stabilize our economy. By buying the American-made pair, you are supporting the artisans that handcraft and manufacture these boots, their families, the community that houses the factory, the local economy that benefits from the job opportunity, and the national economy by insuring that your dollar is not wasted on the highest price of foreign-production, importation.
Some consumers claim that they only shy away from some American-made products because the foreign-manufactured equivalent is of a better quality. However you will find that most of those same consumers will admit that they would cast their vote for American-made and invest their dollar in domestically-produced products if they only knew where to find them. Exposing our consumer base to those products is what will shift this market.
When consumers buy imported products, they almost never consider what is being exported to produce them. However, with rising rates of unemployment and the closure of more than 40,000 US manufacturing plants in 2008 alone, our public is starting to take notice. More than ever, the American Dream is being threatened, or more accurately, outsourced. With every job opportunity, manufacturing plant, and product outsourced, our American Dream is becoming the reality of foreign manufacturing hubs like Shanghai.
Melanie Joseph of Lucky 7 Designs says that she was never so aware of how much we lose of our American identity until her husband was deployed overseas. "When he returned stateside, he brought back products that proudly displayed American classic icons thatlooked like Minnie Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. That was when I realized how much we give up of our identity as a people and pledged to buy everything possible American-made, in my home and in my shop."
Americans should think about this the next time they go shopping. When you buy American-made, you are investing your dollar in the safety and return of the American Dream. Mary Humphrey of Annie's Goat Hill soap said it when we asked our readers why we should buy American-made. "When we buy American, especially from small businesses, we are helping our economy down to the roots. Small business, especially micro-businesses, use their profits to raise their families - buy food, pay mortgages. Support small business America, the heartbeat, the American Dream. It may cost a few more pennies, sometimes dollars, but the investment and quality products you receive from your purchases is worth it."
Tomorrow Heath explores how buying American-made benefits our local communities and local economies and saves our American Dream.