We still aren't willing to put our money where our "Made in America" heart is:
Bottom Line: More polling, similar results. We want stuff to be "Made in America" but we don't want to pay for it. Recent accredited polling on the topic has resumed due to the Trump administration's focus on the topic. Here's the latest:
- 80%: Would prefer to buy "Made in the USA" merchandise
- 85%: Say American merchandise is generally higher quality
- 75%: Would be willing to pay more for American made goods
But here's the rub. What we say and what we do continue to be two different things. In one of the more detailed survey's conducted in recent years Consumer Reports reported that 60% of consumers would pay 10% or more for products that are "Made in the USA". Recently the Boston Consulting Group found that the real cutoff in what they've researched is about 5% and there's the issue. The average cost of manufacturing in the US is a minimum of 10% more expensive as compared to Asian manufacturing. As I've indicated in previous stories, our labor laws as compared to the absence of any meaningful labor regulation in Asian countries, ensures that most products will cost significantly more if they're manufactured here. Ironically, one of the biggest obstacles to leveling the cost playing field has been the low energy prices over the past couple of years. When energy, and thus transportation costs, are high - American manufacturing becomes a better relative value as higher transportation costs erode so of the value of the cheap Asian labor.
Good intentions aside, it's unlikely that the cost of American manufacturing will be within 5% of the cost of manufacturing in Asia anytime soon - so if we're going to have more than good intentions we're likely going to have to alter what we're willing to pay above our current habits. As an aside, it's also worth noting that many people would prefer to buy American made goods but simply can't afford to pay more than whatever the cheapest viable options happen to be. Perhaps if we do see continued economic improvement this is something else that could change in consumer behavior.