According to a November 2023 Morning Consult Poll, 86% of Americans surveyed said they would like to buy more American-made goods if only they were available through large retailers.
There is a very simple reason retailers, large and small, prefer to stock their shelves with foreign-made goods: the price markup. Many retailers would much rather offer imported products from China or other cheap-labor countries than from higher-wage countries like the United States.
Retailers in the U.S. would much rather sell you an imported pair of shoes from Nike, Adidas (German-owned), or Skechers than an American-made (and American-owned) pair of shoes from New Balance. Since America’s standard of living and, therefore, wages are much higher than in India, Bangladesh, and China, retailers like Foot Locker would rather sell you a Nike shoe made overseas for the same price as an American-made New Balance shoe and pocket a higher profit markup.
The minimum wage in Beijing (the highest in China) is $3.70 per hour. Minimum wages for the U.S. range from $7.25 per hour in several states to 17.00 per hour in Washington, D.C. (the highest). California’s minimum wage is $15.50.
Even if we use the highest Chinese minimum wage and the lowest U.S. minimum wage, products from China (not just shoes) can be made for at least half the cost of American-made products.
Shoes, automobiles at dealerships, apparel, and many other products sold in the U.S. are nearly the same price. That is why retailers like to carry imports on their store shelves, charge the same price as American-made products, and pocket higher profits. The next time you visit a retail store that sells footwear, you might notice that almost all sneaker prices are nearly identical regardless of where the branded products are made.
In fact, even though retailers like Foot Locker carry New Balance footwear, they tend to carry imported New Balance shoes. New Balance makes about 25% of their footwear in the U.S., which may not sound like a lot, until you realize companies like Nike, Adidas, and Skechers make none of their footwear here. And New Balance just broke ground on a New Hampshire facility to add to their five U.S. factories where they produce 4 million pairs of shoes per year.
There are other examples of foreign-made goods costing as much as American-made goods despite lower labor costs in foreign countries. Irish Spring makes several types of body wash, including an American-made version that I like and use. Irish Spring (owned by U.S.-based Colgate-Palmolive) also makes certain varieties of body wash in Mexico. Guess what? All of the body wash varieties sold by Irish Spring cost the same in my local stores, whether made in America or Mexico. This is despite the fact that Mexican wages are one-eighth of American wages.
Clearly, Colgate has been pocketing the extra profits from the more cheaply-produced body wash that is made in Mexico instead of passing the cost savings on to you, the consumer.
Is the Softsoap made in Mexico less expensive for the American consumer than the Softsoap made in the USA? No. Why are Hallmark greeting cards made in America often less costly than the ones made in China? Why can I find combs made in the USA at my wife’s favorite beauty supply store cheaper than the ones made in China?
Do you think the Mexican-made Toyota Tacoma is less expensive on the auto dealer lot than the Toyota Tacoma made in America? Of course not. The market has determined the cost of an automobile, and the same goes for footwear.
Although it may not happen in the near future, what should happen is for brick-and-mortar retailers to offer more American-made goods on their shelves. That is why it is a good idea to visit websites like www.MadeinUSAForever.com, www.AllAmericanClothing.com, www.AmericanTrench.com, www.American-Giant.com, www.allusaclothing.com, www.allamericanstore.us, www.authenticity50.com, www.bladeandblue.com, and www.strictlyusa.com, which carry only American-made products. And this time of year, you can get some great deals on many American-made products.
These websites are very important since online retailers are still not required to disclose where products are made. That can’t change soon enough, either.