Retailer initiates American Made vs. Chinese Import Experiment

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As consumers start looking for the "Made in USA" label, Little Rock, Ark., manufacturer and retailer initiates "The China Experiment" to find out if one of their products would be cheaper if produced overseas. The results were unexpected.

"Do we really want our name associated with such poor workmanship?"

American shoppers are changing. You see them at stores, flipping boxes and tags looking for something that says “Made in the USA.” Perhaps it is due to the recent recession, a sense of patriotism or the idea that every little bit helps but American’s have realized the cause and effect of buying so many imported products – the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs and a shrinking middle class.

So consumers have started their own mini-economic revolution, they have come to understand that imported products are a large reason why themselves, their friends, their neighbors have been standing in unemployment lines across the nation. It was a hard lesson to learn for many who were always just looking for the lowest prices.

Recently, Walmart, one of the nation’s largest importers of consumer products announced they will begin more sourcing of U.S. made products to the tune of $50 billion during the next 10 years., a national flag and banner manufacturer and distributor, always sold American made in a certain product line. They heard over and over again that the Chinese made products were cheaper and “just as good” as their U.S. Made products.

Curious to see if maybe they should try selling more imported products, management decided to initiate what has come to be known as “The China Experiment.” The results were an eye opener for all involved. purchasing contacted a Chinese agent and sent specs for a sample run of just 100 pieces from their top selling product line. The initial price quote was for significantly less than what could be manufactured in the United States.
The order took weeks for communication, manufacturing and shipment. Much longer than what it takes for U.S. production.

When the products arrived, the staff at was not impressed. The quality and workmanship was poor compared to the American made product of the same type. They also found several problems that had to be corrected in their own manufacturing facility. They corrected these items but still did not put them in their product line to sell. Even giving them away was an iffy prospect for those in marketing. “Do we really want our name associated with such poor workmanship?”

While the Chinese made products on price point alone were significantly cheaper than the American made, the cost of shipping and wait time, as well as, having to rework all 100 products in house, made them more costly than their American counterparts. On the other hand, if the experiment had worked in China’s favor, could have saved around .90 cents per product. In the end, the company spent upwards of $2 more per item, for a lesser quality product.

Management decided the experiment was a success, just not what they expected. What they were already selling – made right here in America – was a better deal after all. This experiment helped to cement the belief that American made products really do mean quality and are not always more expensive. (originally Arkansas' Flag and Banner) has been in business since 1975 under the leadership of Kerry McCoy.

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Tammie McClure
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