NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. isn’t the only company buying more goods made in America. It’s also on the minds of luxury and upscale retailers.
With the industry under pressure to respond quickly to fashion trends and seeking to shorten the period between designing a product and getting it on store shelves, there’s a growing appeal to buying U.S. -made products, retailers said.
Increased labor costs in markets such as China, high import duties, fluctuating currency exchange rates and uncertainty over fuel costs make manufacturing in the U.S. more attractive. Add in questions about quality and recent evidence that worker conditions in some countries remain unsafe and the result is that more and more companies have started to look seriously at buying more domestically manufactured goods.
“There are opportunities to test products” made in America, Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio Del Vecchio said, adding the percentage of the apparel retailer’s made-in-the-U.S. stock has increased. “It’s part of our culture to support American manufacturing. We like to buy from America.”
Brooks Brothers, which makes 70 percent of its suits in Massachusetts, 100 percent of its ties in New York and 15 percent of its shirts in North Carolina, is looking at increasing the manufacturing of its men’s shoes and accessories in the U.S., he told MarketWatch. The company’s website touts made-in-America products.
With the sputtering U.S. job growth rate, the industry, at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention this week, called for its members to do their part to support U.S. jobs.
In a Brunswick Group survey of U.S.-based investors interested in the luxury sector, 80 percent said the reputational risk of offshore manufacturing is beginning to offset savings.
ost savings for luxury goods manufacturers.
“A lot of our (luxury) clients talk about bringing sourcing back home,” said Susan Gilchrist, group chief executive at communications firm Brunswick Group, at a Financial Times Business of Luxury panel Thursday. “It’s not just about publicity. The actual (cost) differential gap is really closing.”
Marcus Wainwright, head designer for the contemporary apparel label Rag & Bone, said more than 60 percent of its products are made in the U.S. _ and at a profit.
“To have flexibility and nimbleness is incredible in the U.S.,” he said at the presentation. “There’s something intangible and valuable. It’s more about craftsmanship and authenticity than margin and profit.”
At designer house Vera Wang, high-end wedding gowns are also made in America.
“It’s almost impossible to do the dress elsewhere,” Mario Grauso, president of Vera Wang, said at the panel. “We have 12 weeks to deliver the dress. We don’t want to disappoint the bride. Our high-end customers care where it’s made.”
Lingerie maker Cosabella, which makes 99 percent of the lingerie and sleepwear it sells at retailers including Saks, Macy’s Inc.’s Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom Inc. in Italy, is considering making investments to have its products made here in the U.S.
“The opportunity of coming to the U.S. is attractive,” Guido Campello, vice president of sales, branding and innovation, told MarketWatch, adding that as a second-generation Italian-American, his heritage is part of the reason behind the desire to do domestic sourcing. “Oversight is easier. When you have to go to Italy and China, you lose three or four days, and that costs money. There’s awesome potential.”
Moving some of the production to the U.S. could save him currency fluctuation headaches with the euro, he said.
The company, which in February will begin to sell its lower-priced line Cosabella Amore at JC Penney, is now able to look at domestic sourcing more seriously because of the commitment from the midprice department store chain for the Amore brand to ship to Penney’s 527 stores, he said, adding it would now make more sense to invest in machines and other infrastructure.
“It will give us some production leverage,” he said in the interview.
But manufacturing in the U.S. isn’t without its challenges.
Campello, for instance, said sophisticated lingerie machines no longer exist here while Wainwright at Rag & Bone said it’s been hard for the company to find seamstresses and young workers interested in apparel manufacturing as a career choice.
“The skills have kind of disappeared,” Wainwright said.