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In 1980 almost 80% of clothing bought in America was made in this country. Today, it's around 3%. But Bayard Winthrop, founder and CEO of the sportswear company American Giant, is trying to turn that around, helping to rebuild an infrastructure and workforce to manufacture clothing that proudly bears the "Made in U.S.A." label. He took correspondent John Blackstone on a tour of the production cycle, from cotton farm to finished hoodie.
 

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In 1980 almost 80% of clothing bought in America was made in this country. Today, it's around 3%. But Bayard Winthrop, founder and CEO of the sportswear company American Giant, is trying to turn that around, helping to rebuild an infrastructure and workforce to manufacture clothing that proudly bears the "Made in U.S.A." label.

Good luck with that. With the growing movement toward a $15 per hour minimum wage, how is a U.S.factory supposed to compete with an overseas factory with employees willing and eager to work for $3 per hour, or even less?
 

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Americans need to buy American products on purpose. I buy Mercedes cars, and SUVs (which are assembled in the US of A), and go out of my way to buy other American products. We need to stop buying shit because it is cheap. We need to return to buying things that last more than a season or until the warranty is over. We need to pay people $15 per hour or more and demand that in return we get products that don't create mountains of plastic and other shit that will be disposed of by dumping it in the oceans.

I'll be checking this guy's products out. Unfortunately I am not a hoodie customer....

Jim
 

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Well said, Jim. New Balance has found a way to make their Model 990 shoes in the USA, and they're good shoes (I have a couple of pairs). I have the highest of hopes for American Giant, and if their stuff is of good quality, I will very likely buy it.
 

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Americans need to buy American products on purpose. I buy Mercedes cars, and SUVs (which are assembled in the US of A), and go out of my way to buy other American products. We need to stop buying shit because it is cheap. We need to return to buying things that last more than a season or until the warranty is over. We need to pay people $15 per hour or more and demand that in return we get products that don't create mountains of plastic and other shit that will be disposed of by dumping it in the oceans.

I'll be checking this guy's products out. Unfortunately I am not a hoodie customer....

Jim
It would be nice, but I'm afraid that most Americans buy things for the "now" rather than for the long term. Fashion items are an obvious example, e.g. shoes, clothes, watches and jewelry, even some electronic products like iPhones that change model every Thanksgiving so that everyone must have the latest one or be condemned by their peers (e.g. other highschool kids). It's the inevitable result of our consumer and consumption driven society.

I confess I'm guilty too (not on fashion, trust me, and I despise iPhones), buying a cheap Chinese tool from Horrible Fright or wherever if I'm only going to use it once or twice then throw it away, rather than buy the twice or three times as expensive American alternative, which while it may last a lifetime, will probably spend 99% of that lifetime in the cabinet in the garage anyway.

BTW it turned out my "American" D'Angelico guitar that the wife bought me at Snowmass was made in China too...
 

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PS I think Donald has it right to impose tariffs on some imported products, it's just a shame that the Chinese hold most of the picture cards when it comes to trade and can retaliate for decades if they want to. The Chinese play for the long term, not the next quarterly report to Wall Street, the State of the Union speech or the next election, after all.

Examples include (for me) iPhones, sports shoes, sporting products generally, consumer electronics, all the cheap crap people buy at Maomart…
 

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What's going to become of American manufacturing if we set the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?

Skilled industry will be okay because those workers already make more than $20 per hour so they will only be demanding relatively small raises.

But what about a small company like the one I work for that makes simple to manufacture products using semi skilled workers who make $15 an hour and employs unskilled assemblers and packers at $10 an hour.

When the minimum wage is $15, this company will need to come up with 50% pay raises all around and the Asian competition will still be paying their workers $2 - $3 an hour.

You can kiss this company goodbye
 

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Without knowing what your company makes its impossible to say. So I'm going to use shoes as an example.

If it's a low cost to produce low selling price product, like, say, flip-flops, I suspect production would gave moved overseas long ago. A mid to low price tennis shoe, or for that matter a high end business shoe with a relatively high percentage of the cost coming from labor involvement? Difficult to say. Cheap to produce extortionate markup product like a sports shoe with someone famous's name on it? Eat it or bump your prices up - the Muppets who will pay $600 for pair of sneakers will think they're even cooler when the price hits $700.
 

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Nike has built their entire business on imports, and especially "made in China" shoes. Nike then charges that super-high price for those sweatshop-labor-made shoes. Same goes for Reebok and Adidas; Nike just happens to be the best marketer.

I will not purchase an iPhony. Same goes for the iBlobs, iBads, and other iBullcrap. That's more due to Apple's "walled garden" policies than anything else. My phone will be one of those new Librem phones that actually respect your privacy. Unfortunately, even those are made in China, as are virtually all portable phones nowadays. I'd really like to see that moved back here to the United States, where it belongs.

Yes, Apple (and others) can make things here and make a profit. Apple computers used to be made here in the USA (yep, true!). Their hardware was terrific, well made, and with good performance. Back then, I would buy Power Mac G3's and G4's and install either Yellow Dog Linux or Ubuntu Linux (PPC edition). That was a really solid, very useful combination. I ran those computers for several years.

"Horrible Fright"--good one, I'm gonna start using that! :)

I do believe that Donald is thinking a bit more long-term here than typical Presidents, or members of Congress, do (especially House members--two-year terms). He's had to, running the Trump Organization. We're just not used to seeing that from an American President. China will, I believe, be more hurt by tariffs on their goods to us, overall, than we will be in the reverse, which (the hope is) will change their behaviour to make a more fair trade deal for both sides, not just good for them. Remember also that a lot of the big companies in China are owned by government officials, so if their companies start hurting, that's an incentive for them to change their behaviour. I hope that's how it goes.
 

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There are other products that are made in USA, and they remain very popular. One of those is the telescopic sight for rifles ("riflescopes"). There are plenty that are made in China, and they're generally junk. Those who buy riflescopes are well aware of this. There are also some that are made in Japan (e. g. Vortex or Weaver) and the Philippines (e. g. Nikon) ; those are actually pretty good. However, the lion's share of the riflescope market in the United States is held by Leupold & Stevens, Inc., an American company headquartered in Beaverton, OR. Their factory is also located in Beaverton, and all Leupold scopes are made there. They have an enviable reputation for affordable, high-quality merchandise. They compete favourably against the foreign competition, the old-fashioned way, by making a top-notch product at a decent price.

So, yes, it is possible to manufacture goods here and sell them.
 

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Lots of guns are made in USA too as you can't import Chinese made AK-47 (NRA will make sure of that).
 

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There are other products that are made in USA, and they remain very popular. One of those is the telescopic sight for rifles ("riflescopes"). There are plenty that are made in China, and they're generally junk. Those who buy riflescopes are well aware of this. There are also some that are made in Japan (e. g. Vortex or Weaver) and the Philippines (e. g. Nikon) ; those are actually pretty good. However, the lion's share of the riflescope market in the United States is held by Leupold & Stevens, Inc., an American company headquartered in Beaverton, OR. Their factory is also located in Beaverton, and all Leupold scopes are made there. They have an enviable reputation for affordable, high-quality merchandise. They compete favourably against the foreign competition, the old-fashioned way, by making a top-notch product at a decent price.

So, yes, it is possible to manufacture goods here and sell them.
Great to hear - although not likely a purchase I'm likely to make - the people still manufacturing in the US have to find a market advantage other than lowest cost to succeed. Great to see there is a market sophisticated enough to be able to distinguish a value other than just cost when making choices. Thanks for the good news!

Jim
 

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Without knowing what your company makes its impossible to say. So I'm going to use shoes as an example.

If it's a low cost to produce low selling price product, like, say, flip-flops, I suspect production would gave moved overseas long ago. A mid to low price tennis shoe, or for that matter a high end business shoe with a relatively high percentage of the cost coming from labor involvement? Difficult to say. Cheap to produce extortionate markup product like a sports shoe with someone famous's name on it? Eat it or bump your prices up - the Muppets who will pay $600 for pair of sneakers will think they're even cooler when the price hits $700.
All of our competitors have factories in Asia. My company us literally the last made in USA in existence in our market. Because of that, we can get away with charging up to about 30% more than other companies because of brand loyalty and American patriotism But that only goes so far.

If our labor costs go up by 50% then our products will need to be priced even higher than they already are. When customers are comparing products side by side in the store they're not going to be infinitely patriotic.

The bottom line is my company will be fucked. I'll be out of a job along with a dozen other people.
 

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As an aside, when Donald imposed his 25% (?) steel tariffs last year, the first thing US steel manufacturers did was to raise their prices 24%.
 

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I always wonder how anyone making only $10/hour can actually eat properly and put a roof over their head..
..let alone feed an extra child or two....or buy a few of the necessities of life..

Such an interesting planned division of wealth for far too many...........
 

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Food stamps, beans and rice, 10 to an apartment, section 8 housing, little or no income tax and LONG hours.
 

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I always wonder how anyone making only $10/hour can actually eat properly and put a roof over their head..
..let alone feed an extra child or two....or buy a few of the necessities of life..

Such an interesting planned division of wealth for far too many...........
The small company I work for has 4 part time employees who each make $10 / hr. At 24 hours per week that makes $12,000 per year.

How can they possibly survive on that? Easily.

Two of them are women in their 50's and are married. Their husbands are professionals and make more than the median income.

Another is a college student in her 20's and still lives at home with her parents. She pays no rent or utilities and her food and most other household items are given to her.

The 4th worker owns her own business - a martial arts academy with over 120 students. Her husband has a full time job as well. She only works at our warehouse because she's friends with the other girl and they enjoy being together.

All 4 of these employees are well off. They live in nice homes, drive nice cars and take expensive vacations several times each year. The two older women claim the money they make is their bingo money. Every friday they play bingo or sometimes the casino and spend several hundred bucks on gambling.

The work they do is the easiest job you can imagine. They sit in a chair and put small parts in boxes. They work at their own pace and can take breaks whenever it's convenient for them. Their work stations are quiet, comfortable and air conditioned.

Statistics show that a majority of minimum wage workers have other sources of income and live comfortably. I'm really tired of hearing people cry about them as if they're all starving. The proper way to help low wage workers who don't have other income sources is welfare. The state should subsidize their housing, utilities, food and other necessities. Don't expect that their employer can just arbitrarily pay them $15 an hour and not have to raise prices for what they produce and risk going out of business.
 
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