'Made in America' fashionable among luxury brands

China price increases make it practical choice, as well

NEW YORK — Discounter Walmart Stores Inc. isn't the only company taking steps to buy more goods made in America — it's also on the minds of luxury and upscale retailers and brands.

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.

Meanwhile, increased labor costs in markets such as China, high import duties, fluctuating currency exchange rates, and uncertainty over volatile 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 Bros. Chief Executive Claudio Del Vecchio said in an interview, adding the percentage of the apparel retailer's made-in-the-U.S. stock as part of the total has increased. "It's part of our culture to support American manufacturing. We like to buy from America."

Brooks Bros., which makes 70 percent of its suits in a Massachusetts factory, 100 percent of its ties in New York, and 15 percent of its shirts in North Carolina, is also looking at increasing the manufacturing of its men's shoes and accessories in the U.S., he told MarketWatch. The company's website has a section that touts only made-in-America products.

With the sputtering U.S. job growth rate, the industry, at the National Retail Federation's annual convention earlier this week, has called for its members to do their part to support U.S. jobs.

Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon, in a keynote speech at NRF, said the retail giant is buying an additional $50 billion U.S.-made products over the next 10 years. It plans to do this by increasing orders for things such as paper and sporting goods it already buys domestically, but also by helping to bring back production textiles, furniture and higher-end appliances.


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