Measuring the Impact of Made in USA

Below is an article from the June 15 online newsletter from Hardware & Building Supply Dealer, written by Ken Clark.  For additional information please contact us at

There is no use disputing the fact that “Made in the USA” has emotional appeal for the vast majority of red-blooded Americans. It’s even true that the visibility of the label in stores and around the industry is on the rise.

But the degree to which the label itself boosts sales is a subject of debate among researchers and retailers.

A recent survey of HBSDealer readers found that when asked to describe the impact of the label as “big,” “moderate” or “small,” 38% responded with “big.” On the flip side, 27% felt that Made in USA is a nice story, but it doesn’t move the needle on sales.

“There is definitely a shift in thinking as of late, as reflected by recent polls, that support the observation that consumers are moving to buy more Made-in-USA products,” said Randy Rusk, communications director for Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Do it Best Corp.

That comment echoes those of scores of retailers and domestic manufacturers. Rusk also said wholesalers are seeing movement in manufacturing activity from Asia back to the U.S.

Observations like those are bolstered by stats from Perception Research Services. Four-out-of-five shoppers notice “Made in the USA” claims on packaging, according to the numbers. And 76% of those shoppers claim that they are more likely to purchase a product because of it.

That’s why Do it Best Corp. and other distribution players offer retailers POP materials and in-store signage to promote the trend of domestic manufacturing.

The proof is in the purchasing. And according to Grant Farnsworth of the Farnsworth Group, an Indianapolis-based research firm, the idea that the label doesn’t move the needle on sales is understandable — not because consumers love Made in USA less, but because they love “low price” more.

“From the manufacturer’s side, what we see historically is that consumers will say they prefer to purchase Made in the USA, but when it comes to actual behaviors, they are reluctant to spend more,” said Farnsworth.

He added that when two products are equal in price and performance and one is Made in the USA and one is not, the USA product will win. “But very rarely is there such a clear-cut apples-to-apples comparison,” he said.

It remains to be seen how the next generation of consumers will value Made in USA, when, according to Farnsworth, they’ve been buying imported products their whole lives. The good news for domestic manufacturing is that there is a general improvement in the appreciation of “Made in USA.” “The attitude and perception toward American manufacturing is slightly changing for the better,” he said.

One of the challenges, according to Eric Voyer, VP of Stevenson Company, of accurately measuring the impact of Made-in-USA labels is the confusion over what exactly defines “Made in the USA” and also the variety of countries of origin for products within a single brand.

But confusion hasn’t stopped the consumer — particularly the quality-minded pro consumer — from gravitating toward Made-in-USA products. “Among professionals, Made in USA is just as important as it has always been,” he said.

Ryan Lee