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Made in the USA: Politics, spending habits shape Made in USA mantra

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 2.34.11 PMAt the start of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a strong importance was placed on buying American goods and hiring of American people. While the election is over, this made, sold, bought in the USA sentiment continues to grow.

As President Trump continues to push forward with his plans to “Make America Great Again” and to bring jobs back to America, buying American-made products has been adopted as one of the ways Americans can help.

Looking at the Made in USA label as an extension of President Trump and his ideals is impacting the label in both positive and negative ways. For those who support the President, buying American products are essential to supporting the current administration. Conversely, for some individuals who disagree with the current administration, boycotting Made in the USA products is viewed as a way to dispute President Trump’s position.

When it comes to the flooring industry, viewpoints are mixed. Torrey Jaeckle, vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, expressed concerns over proposed tariffs on imported products. (His company imports from China.) “As a free-market businessman in an industry that relies on a fair amount of imported product, this is the area that most concerns me about Trump,” he told FCNews.

On the flip side, proponents of the President’s economic policies feel putting America first will only help the flooring industry, especially retailers. “Lower taxes, less regulation and pro-growth government policies are generally good for both small and large businesses,” said Sam Roberts, owner of Houston-based Roberts Carpet & Fine Flooring. “I think most dealers would welcome change that might alter current business realities.”

Whether a buyer supports President Trump and the administration or not, there is a larger underlying factor affecting consumers’ decisions to buy Made in the USA products: money. According to an Associated Press-GFK poll from 2016, a majority of Americans said they would seek out lower-priced items instead of paying more for products labeled Made in the USA, even if that means the cheaper items are made abroad.

While it is still too early to tell the lasting influence the President will have on consumers buying Made in USA products, one thing is definite: Retailers must find a way to either offer Made in USA items at a lower price, or provide a strong enough product story to upsell the consumer.

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Made in the USA: Could new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber backfire?

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

The Trump Administration recently announced a new 20% tariff on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The move is in response to U.S. lumber industry objection to the low Canadian stumpage rates (charges for logging on Canada’s government-owned lands) and transportation costs—something the President described as an unfair advantage. In short, U.S. producers contended Canada was subsidizing its lumber industry by allocating timber in a non-competitive manner.

While softwood (cedar, pine, spruce, Douglas fir, etc.) is not used in the manufacture of solid hardwood flooring, the materials are nonetheless utilized by many American construction and home repair industries—sectors that, combined, employ thousands of Americans. The U.S., which currently imports more than $5.6 billion worth of softwood lumber from Canada every year, is heavily dependent on the import of timber from that country. Domestic supplies, analysts say, are insufficient to meet customer needs.

While President Trump sees the move as a victory, based on sentiments he expressed during the campaign, some critics believe the tariffs could do more harm than good. In an opinion piece written for Forbes magazine, France Coppola, a 17-year banking industry veteran explained how the move could backfire.

“The Canadian dollar has already dropped sharply vs. the U.S. dollar: the weakness of the loonie, if sustained, will mitigate the impact of the tariff on Canadian producers, while the dollar’s strength will make all imports from Canada—apart from softwood lumber—cheaper. The tariff will, therefore, raise input costs for lumber users and make it harder for other American businesses to compete with imports from Canada. It is obviously intended to hurt Canada, and it will of course have some impact there. But the principal pain will be felt by American citizens.”

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Made in the USA: What ‘Made in USA’ actually means

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 2.30.44 PMFor manufacturers, labeling a product as “Made in USA” involves much more than the item’s place of production. Protected by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), all American-made products sold to U.S. civilians must pass a strict set of standards.

According to the FTC’s website, items labeled as “Made in USA” must be manufactured in the U.S. borders from “all or virtually all” American parts, with parts also made in the U.S. Furthermore, “all or virtually all” means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. That is, the product should contain no—or negligible—foreign content.”

While manufacturers must follow these strict guidelines when selling to businesses and civilians, the FTC designations are not considered when the U.S. government is the purchaser. The U.S. government is required to buy only American-made goods if possible. However—following the guidelines of the 1933 Buy American Act—this classification is given to any item assembled in the U.S. with more than 50% American-made parts.

Beyond the FTC’s rigorous guidelines for Made in the USA products, there is a gray area which hosts products that are “assembled” or “built” in America. Products with the “Assembled in USA” designation include imported parts that are manufactured in U.S. factories.

Deviating further away from the Made in USA label, some companies classify their products as “Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts” or “60% U.S. content.” Under these classifications, some of the parts and materials are made in the U.S.

As consumers become more interested with buying Made in the USA products, research shows some companies are manipulating labels to get around the strict FTC guidelines. When looking for completely USA-made products, FTC advises consumers to watch out for packaging that displays the United States flag, a map of the USA, the words “USA” or “American” in part of the brand name.

While many of these labels and names imply an American origin, they may be used to trick consumers who are looking to buy exclusively U.S.-made items. When approaching products with this type of packaging/ branding, experts say it is important to look at the fine print for the products’ true origin.

Beyond that, dealers and consumers can check to see if the product is genuinely Made in USA. Certified Inc. is an independent, third-party certification source and U.S. non-governmental organization, which verifies five distinct types of “Origin of USA” claims: “Made in USA Certified,” referring to manufactured goods; “Product of USA Certified,” concerning consumable and/or ingestible goods; “Service in USA Certified,” regarding services performed at a location exclusively within the USA and/or its territories; “Grown in USA Certified,” associated with items such as flowers, plants, produce, etc.; and “U.S. Labor Force,” used to identify when all labor strictly associated with the assembly of a product is performed within the U.S.

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Wood: Not so made in America

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

Mystery shopping exercise reveals RSAs don’t always properly identify product origins

By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-4-11-50-pmMuch has been made about the “Made in the USA” slogan in recent years, particularly as it applies to big-ticket items such as automobiles, appliances and, yes, even hardwood flooring products. While it has served as a rallying cry for those who support domestic sourcing and manufacturing, it can (and has) backfired when products claimed by some retail sales associates to be made in America turned out to be produced elsewhere.

Several such instances were exposed when representatives of American OEM conducted a series of “mystery shopper” exercises whereby they asked retail sales associates in select stores to confirm the origin of particular hardwood flooring products that were on display on the showroom floor. In more than a few cases, American OEM representatives report, salespeople did not properly identify the products’ origins when asked by the mystery shoppers.

Allie Finkell, vice president of American OEM, explained how the program began. “Earlier this year one of our team members who was on vacation ended up stopping at a bunch of retail stores up north. He gave the sales rep specific information in terms of what he wanted as far as specifications, style, color, etc. More importantly, he told the rep he wanted a product that was made in America. He was just trying to see if the rep would take him to a private-label brand that was manufactured by American OEM, knowing pretty much that was the only product in the rack that fit the bill.”

What the American OEM mystery shopper found, however, was either the salesperson had no idea where the hardwood flooring was made or he was simply incorrect. While Finkell realizes it’s hard for salespeople to know everything about every product in the store—including where they are made—she feels there ought to be systems in place whereby consumers can readily discern between flooring manufactured within the U.S. or outside the country prior to making a purchasing decision.

“With many consumer goods, especially clothing or seafood at the supermarket, for example, you can look at the tag or the label and see where it’s made. Then you can make a choice if that’s important to you or not. There’s so much transparency happening in virtually every other consumer category at the point of sale. But when it comes to flooring, we have so much imported product that’s coming over and some of it is being marketed with misleading information with American or U.S. sounding names.”

One of the main problems, Finkell says, is there’s no regulation in terms of labeling hardwood flooring products at the point of sale; you only have to put the country of origin on the box itself. Problem is, by the time the customer sees the box she has more than likely already made her decision. “In many cases she doesn’t even see the box in which the materials are shipped because the product usually gets installed before she comes home,” she noted.

While leading industry trade groups such as the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) do not have authoritative powers with respect to enforcement of claims regarding country of origin (that burden falls on the Federal Trade Commission), groups are working to set standards regarding “responsible” sourcing. Such is the case with NWFA’s Responsible Procurement Program, which was developed to ensure member companies observe guidelines pertaining to the environmentally friendly harvesting procedures. The program is a joint initiative between leading environmental groups and wood flooring manufacturers committed to producing products obtained from environmentally and socially responsible sources.

However, this program is voluntary and—while well-intentioned—lacks the regulatory “teeth” that federal mandates might carry.

Other industry groups have been known to take a much more fierce stance in this regard. For instance, Finkell cited the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA), which was created in 1898 to establish a uniform system of grading rules for the measurement and inspection of hardwood lumber. Over time, NHLA’s purview has been expanded beyond hardwood lumber grading. Today it is the world’s largest and oldest hardwood industry association, representing more than 1,200 companies and one million hardwood families that produce, use and sell North American hardwood lumber or provide equipment, supplies or services to the hardwood industry.

NWFA, for its part, is working with retailers on the education front as opposed to serving the role of “enforcer.” As Anita Howard, COO, explains: “NWFA does offer retail sales training for wood flooring professionals, both in person and through our online courses through NWFA University. Some of the courses specifically discuss the regulations regarding chain of custody reporting, so this issue is definitely one we address through our training programs. It provides teams with consistent messages that help them steer their customers toward the right products. We also participate regularly at shows like CCA, Flooring America and ProSource to provide education and training on a larger scale.”

 

A matter of choice
Even those who advocate domestic manufacturing and the proper identification of products and species at the point of sale realize it’s not an issue that’s top of mind for many consumers. As Finkell points out, “Some people might not care where it comes from—maybe they just want the best price or a certain look. But for those consumers who do care about where it’s made, they ought to be able to get the most accurate information and a straight answer at the point of sale.”

For some consumers it is an important issue. And it’s one that manufacturers are sensitive to. Mohawk, for instance, believes the Made in the USA label means more today than it ever has with all the press on the various environmental issues. To that end, the company has people in place to ensure all facets of its hardwood production—including everything from finishes to adhesives—are in compliance.

“The majority of our manufacturing is in the United States, but we also have a large presence in Europe,” said Gary Lanser, president of Mohawk’s wood and laminate business. “Obviously there are many advantages to our customers and ourselves in purchasing and supplying domestically produced products. Clearly there’s the speed of supply and excellent service.”

Other major hardwood flooring suppliers share that philosophy, emphasizing the importance of properly sourcing raw materials and complying with environmental regulations. At Shaw Floors, for instance, the aim is to go beyond standards required by law to pursue independent, third-party assessments such as Cradle to Cradle, Greenguard, FloorScore and others. Shaw says it carefully considers the impact of its products on the environment and on society throughout their life cycle. More importantly, it examines the ingredient materials, the impact of its supply chain, the use of natural resources and the ability to recover and recycle its products.

While Shaw manufactures many of its own products and sources from strategic partners in the U.S. and internationally, the company takes “numerous steps to verify that its products, regardless of where or by whom they are manufactured, meet customers’ high expectations. These steps include: performing manufacturing site inspections to ensure suppliers meet the same high-quality standards the company practices internally; setting raw material specifications that restrict the use of certain chemical substances of concern; and ensuring all products meet the relevant indoor air emissions requirements,” according to a statement.

 

 

 

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All-Things-Wood.com earns Made in USA certification

Winston-Salem, N.C.– All-Things-Wood.com, a cabinet, deck and hardwood floor refinishing contractor, has received official notice that they are the first home improvement contractor in the nation to be Made in USA Certified in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission requirements.

Lee Brown, company Visioneer, explained why they sought the recognition. “North Carolina lost 80,000 jobs to China in less than 10 years. Most of these were in the wood industries. So from the beginning our expressed values were to use both Made in America and child-safe green products for hardwood refinishing.” Continue reading All-Things-Wood.com earns Made in USA certification