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As the competition heated up in the short-term and corporate rental business, Patrick Flynn knew he needed an edge. His Northeast Suites business, based in Boston, was growing, but so was Airbnb, HomeAway and other national players. So Flynn launched a new brand over the summer – GoLocal Suites. Fully furnished rental suites where nearly everything inside is made in America.
"Over and over and time and time again, I found that the items that were made in America were of a higher quality, and that goes down to items even like a can opener," said Flynn.
But he is admittedly capitalizing on the made-in-America message being pushed hard by the Trump administration. Flynn calls it, "good timing." The ongoing trade war with China is also making some imported goods more expensive.
"It's even a stronger position for us right now to promote those made-in-America stories to our guests because they're even more passionate now about buying local than ever before based on the political climate," said Flynn
Flynn said it did not cost any more to furnish the units with American made products. In some cases the manufacturers actually gave him the items for free because they knew they would get free advertising.
Indeed, guests can actually buy the products in the suites. Everything from towel to toaster has a scanner code. Put your smartphone or tablet in front of it, and you are linked to a website where you can purchase the item. Flynn said they have already sold more than $10,000 worth of products since the summer.
The sales component could be the real cash cow, using residential real estate as an American-made marketplace. Flynn also launched a GoLocal magazine, modeled on SkyMall, which used to sell products to airline travelers.
"People have an opportunity to demo, review and purchase items during the course of their stay, and we have more of a captive audience. They're here for a few days at a time up to a few months at a time," said Flynn.
Consumer studies have shown that Americans do, in general, like to buy American-made products, as long as those products don't cost more than their foreign counterparts.
"Sometimes it is because they want to support local production and manufacturing jobs and the economy," said Rachel Henderson, vice president at Warschawski, a Baltimore-based advertising and branding agency. "It's also a feel-good thing to do. It's patriotic to be able to support companies that support everyone here at home."
But Henderson warns that businesses need to keep the focus on the products, not the politics.
"We always advise them to stay out of the political arena and not to pay attention to what the political climate might be and what those discussions might be. Focus solely on who your customer base is and your target audience," added Henderson.
Finding the right products, from furniture to sheets and towels to kitchen measuring cups, was harder than Flynn and his team expected. In the end, they did find flatware made in New York and the only vacuum made in America, South Carolina to be exact. For some big-name products, like Calphalon, they could only use certain items. Some pans are made in America, some are not.
The toaster was the toughest. Hatco is the only American-made toaster, hailing from Milwaukee, and most of its products are for commercial use. The smallest one is pretty expensive.
And then there was the paper towel dispenser. The GoLocal team simply could not find one made in America, so they made one themselves.