Sep 7, 2007

Fears Around Overseas Suppy Chains Creates Opportunity for Branded Product Makers

Mounting concerns swirling around long, overseas supply chains and low-cost contract manufacturers is creating a significant strategic opportunity for branded product makers in the U.S. market. "Made in the U.S.A.” is now being exploited by emboldened marketers catering to heightened consumer concerns about workplace and environmental issues, consumer safety and quality problems, and logistics and transportation impacts.

Press reports indicate that the recent recalls of Mattel toys, made in China with lead-based paint, prompted many parents to seek American-made toys. Some domestic companies, such as Stack & Stick, which produces building blocks, or Little Capers, which makes superhero costumes, are working American flags and “Made in the USA” messages into their advertising, as well as marketing themselves as a safe alternative.

All this attention to the realities of running a well-honed manufacturing operation and living up to the promises of trusted brands is a boon to incumbent branded product makers, who have seen their roles increasingly emasculated by commoditized, price-based, undifferentiated retail powerhouses. Finally, word is getting out that there's more to the trust game than lowest price, and there's more to delivering on consumers' needs than lowest cost.

With all the competitive pressures that dominant U.S. retailers are facing vis-a-vis specialty stores and other higher-value consumer shopping options, wouldn't they be better served focusing on consumer experience differentiation than bulding bigger and bigger overseas private label sourcing machines?

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