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Made in the USA: Tips on promoting domestic products

April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.51.53 PMJared Bradford, sales manager at Alabama-based Brian’s Flooring and Design, said customers today are asking more questions about a product’s country of origin and its environmental attributes. “This has raised the awareness of our salespeople to take a greater interest in the product and how it is sourced.”

The fallout of the CBS “60 Minutes” report on Lumber Liquidators selling Chinese laminate containing high levels of formaldehyde has given independent dealers a chance to turn the conversation to Made in the USA products. “I believe the Made in the USA movement is even stronger now since the debacle of Lumber Liquidators and the negative press associated with their imported products,” said Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery, with five stores in the Louisville, Ky., market. “There is the security of knowing the materials used meet all the safety standards for both the consumer and the retailer selling the product.”

Here are five tips used by dealers to promote Made in the USA:

1.Share stories. It’s one thing to say a product is made in the USA; it is quite another to explain the wood product you are looking at comes from sustainable forestry that was carefully planned and harvested in the Appalachian region and manufactured in Tennessee; or that Old World Amish artisans painstakingly handscraped each panel to ensure rich detail and uniqueness.

2.Philanthropy. Flooring America is a sponsor of Pets for Patriots, a charity whose mission is to make the joys of pet ownership achievable and affordable for service members and veterans of the U.S. military. Pets for Patriots connects veterans returning from deployment, active personnel looking to fill the void for their families while deployed, and long-term veterans in need of a constant companion with adult and other at-risk shelter pets needing a loving home.

Many flooring dealers, including Robinsons Carpet One in Fresno, Calif., show their patriotism through efforts such as Homes for Our Troops, a non-profit organization that provides mortgage-free homes for wounded veterans. Robinsons, for example, donates the labor for installation of all the flooring.

3.Tell consumers why. Dealers shouldn’t hesitate to tell consumers why buying an American-made product is better than purchasing one made overseas. Promote the quality of the American-made laminate or hardwood offered and emphasize that it is CARB 2 compliant or has zero VOCs. Buying American-made products also means jobs stay here—and that is good PR for a store.

4.Use digital tools. The “about” section of a dealer’s website is a great place to share a company’s history and values. Through social media there are many ways to promote Made in the USA, experts said, from posting product photos to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to adding #MadeInTheUSA to a product description.

5.Tell your story. Many flooring retailers are multi-generational businesses that have served their local communities for decades. As such, they are living out the American dream. Celebrate that history and heritage with customers.