A curious thing is happening among American shoppers. More people are taking a moment to flip over an item or fish for a label and ask, is it "Made in the USA?"
Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, earlier this year announced it will boost sourcing of U.S. products by $50 billion during the next 10 years. General Electric is investing $1 billion through 2014 to revitalize its U.S. appliances business and create more than 1,500 U.S. jobs.
Mom-and-pops are also engineering entire business strategies devoted to locally made goods — everything from toys to housewares. And it's not simply patriotism and desire for perceived safer products which are altering shopping habits.
The recession, and still flat recovery for many Americans, have created a painful realization. All those cheap goods made in China and elsewhere come at a price — lost U.S. manufacturing jobs. A growing pocket of consumers, in fact, are connecting the economic dots between their shopping carts — brimming with foreign-made stuff — and America's future.
They're calculating the trade-offs of paying a little more for locally-made goods. "The Great Recession certainly brought that home, and highlighted the fact that so many jobs have been lost," said James Cerruti, senior partner for strategy and research at consulting firm Brandlogic. "People have become aware of that."
"'Made in the USA' is known for one thing, quality," said Robert von Goeben, co-founder of California-based Green Toys. All of their products from teething toys to blocks are made domestically and shipped to 75 countries.
"We are reaching a tipping point, where Americans are relearning its competitive advantage," von Goeben said. "It's not about the cheapest product, but the best quality product."