Missed opportunity

Why is our industry not promoting American-made fashion?

By Scotti Gaylord

Made in America.

This battle cry, although noble in cause, is largely ignored by retailers and consumers alike. Why?

According to a recent study, American-made products are perceived as high quality but too costly. How did this “truth” come to be? Is it because U.S. companies don’t market aggressively? Or is it because retailers are so enamored with other countries’ products and/or prices that they’d rather sell those?

It is particularly true that Italian makers have been masterful at promoting their image to the U.S. and the world. True also that they’ve done it better than American makers. But the real issue is that retailers have taken the easy way out for decades now, not only by not promoting American-made products, but also by not promoting their own store name. This is especially relevant now that most of the big luxury brands are marketing directly to consumers.

Clearly, retailers have become brand slaves. Most men’s stores look exactly the same from rack to rack. While service may have improved in many of the upscale stores, merchandising has slipped badly. More and more, the better independents look like small versions of department stores, or else clones of each other. How inspiring. No wonder customers complain about not seeing anything they like. In my extensive travels, I rarely see a store that exudes a unique vision of its own, that evolves their mix carefully from season to season or that strives to innovate and discover ways to truly excite their customers.

I’m not suggesting that all of the blame rests with retailers. Domestic manufacturers need to remain creative and flexible regarding merchandise; they need to understand cost structures. Unions have to start working in harmony with makers to contain costs in order to remain competitive in the global market. At Primo Custom Clothing, we work closely with our retail clients to create unique styles (both custom and ready-made) with their store label, not ours. In so doing, our customers can promote both the exclusivity of their store and the excellence of American craftsmanship.

America still produces some of the finest men’s clothing in the world and at more reasonable prices stitch for stitch than most other countries. American retailers should start looking in their own backyard to maximize the few domestic treasures left, before those treasures are gone forever.

Scotti Gaylord is the national sales director for Primo Custom Clothing. He can be reached at Scotti.Primo@gmail.com

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