This becomes a dilemma not only for the First and Final Cost to the Marketplace but a Political Ideology issue that takes place in cycles.
If you are a branded product and have established recognition in the consumer’s eyes, then where it is made is not as important, but continuing to know your consumer is the most important part.
Countries that have created brands and quality have established recognised credibility over many years… such as Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.
The craftsmen of these countries created quality products and images but products from these countries do not cover HUGE quantities of apparel products needed to cover the masses.
I ask you to identify one brand name product of apparel that was created in and is a global brand from, China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Central or South America.
I doubt you are able to do so.
Other than an Indigenous, or cultural, or climatic, apparel such as a Guayabera shirt, a Moo Moo, or a Kilt, it seems the above-stated countries, or continents, only have low-cost labour to exploit so they can compete for the large volumes of production needed to supply the consumers.
Now that we have new technology to help in the manufacturing of apparel that eliminates labour cost, it still takes skilled hands of the garment workers to sew together apparel products.
Let’s take a T-shirt and allow 3 Standard Allowed Minutes (SAMS) for sewing assembly on the tube.
We now have the technology to quarter turn and cut automatically; now we stamp on the label, rather than attach by sewing, there is not much sewing to process other than hem bottom and sleeves, attach sleeves, and attach ribbed collar.
Therefore, the variables as to the cost of fabric, thread, fold, and package, and of course the yield in the size specification wanted will determine the base cost of a T-Shirt.
If imported, you have the total logistics costs, banking costs, tariffs/duties (if applicable) and all the insurances required to finally, as an importer, to get your exact Landed Duty Paid (LDP) cost.
I do not know the percentage of T-shirts that are produced for underwear use or going to be PRINTED on as the T-shirt is called a BLANK.
Then, this is where the determination as to the cost to the consumer that fluctuates greatly in Gross Margins that certain brands of this type of merchandise can use in a Political Patriotic statement as to “Made in the USA”.
We, in the USA, were considered as No. 1 in certain apparel products, in Ready to Wear Apparel (RTW) such as Men’s Tailored Suits, Sport Coats, Trousers, Hosiery Men’s and Women’s, Dress Shirts, Jeans, Chino Cotton Pants, Leather Shoes, as we had the immigrant labour pool entering our country, the financial capabilities of purchasing the equipment, and most important the raw materials at hand to use for every aspect of fabrics.
As time moves on standards of living rises, the new immigrants earned fair pay, they wanted their children to have better educations, and to use their intelligence, rather than their hands, to earn for their families.
It became increasingly difficult to find workers wanting to sew, and since we were able to go to other global regions help teach, train and invest in the specialised manufacturing equipment, and receive lower labour costs, a lot of these old-time brands either went off-shore or went out of business due to becoming non-competitive in the USA marketplace.
As I have written in previous articles “There is always a Permanent Change”, in our capitalistic economy, the progress of our standard of living will eliminate or dictate the change as to consumers’ needs, as what is more important to their lifestyle.
Therefore, though we in the USA, as others in their countries, are patriotic, the desire is to have things produced in their own country, be proud they are helping jobs being created and the apparel industry to stay competitive.
The American consumer is very fortunate to have many types of retailers that carry many different PERCEIVED VALUES of Apparel but we as a nation are EXTREMELY competitive and will not pay more than what the market demands.
The “Made in USA” might be applicable in what we call casual commodity apparel products, but the consumer really does not demand nor seek this label, they are always seeking the following:
The Best Quality they can afford, at the Best Price, and that the retailer must have the inventory on-hand when they need it or they will go someplace else to purchase it.