museums&MORE Summer 2012
Editor’s Letter: Trend or Tenet?

Do customers care where their products are made?

This is the question that I posed to you, the readers, and I was overwhelmed with the response. There’s no way I could include everything from everybody, but the story in this issue is a collection of some of the more unique replies to the survey, with additional responses on our website.

However, I did spend many hours poring through your replies and came up with a few common themes I saw repeated over and over. The first is that although it seems obvious, most retailers would prefer to sell American-made products in their stores, but that price is often a bigger consideration for customers than where the item was made. In the end they’ll buy what they like and what they can afford.

The next overwhelming sentiment is that locally made goods specific to your location are a bigger draw than simply labeling a product as American-made (although that goes hand-in-hand.) Visitors to your destination want to take home a piece of the experience — some handmade jewelry from a Maine artist or jellies from Virginia —more than mass-produced souvenir items, even if they’re American-made.

To make these items more attractive to customers, many of you pointed out that telling the story” with promotional materials about the artist, company or product creates more awareness and subsequent sales. Whether the product is made across the street or across the world, the story seals the deal.

When it comes to products, many of you noted that a majority of the U.S.-made items you carry are from local artists and companies and that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the areas of U.S.-made clothing — specifically T-shirts, toys and children’s items, housewares and small impulse items that are easy for travelers to pack.

Unfortunately, there is no solution as to how to make everyone happy. It’s a personal choice for each retailer in terms of balancing patriotism and profits, as the bottom line is drawn in different places for different people.

But I think Bobbi Boschan of Ojai Valley Museum Store summed it up well by saying, “It would be wonderful to be able to buy only made in America items, but we are living in a global world where competition is tougher than it has ever been. To stay ‘alive’ in this difficult retail world, it is important to be unique, affordable and profitable.”

Hopefully some of the replies in the story — and in the rest of this issue — can help you do just that.

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