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The Glove Maker's Blog, Glove Sourcing Strategies for Retailers and Brands

"Made in USA": The Outlook for US Glove Companies (Part 1)

Posted by Rhonda Hurwitz

Jun 30, 2014 10:01:00 AM

made_in_USA_

The time is ripe for forward thinking companies in our industry -- apparel brands, manufacturers, and retailers --  to take a fresh look at domestic manufacturing.

But for goods that are currently made in China and elsewhere, "reshoring" isn't a slam dunk.

On the one hand, the American consumer wants more "Made in USA" options.  In fact, "made in USA" is a desireable label for many Asian consumers as well.

On the other hand, consumers remain price sensitive.  

How can this reshoring come about?  And what does it mean for a US glove company like ours, that makes labor intensive sports gloves?

In this 2-Part series, we take a closer look. 

The Road To "Made in USA" Gloves

In a recent survey of fashion executives, respondents overwhelmingly said they support sourcing closer to home. 82% of retailers said they intend to increase sourcing from the U.S.A.

From U.S. based 3-D printing to injection molded parts to cars, U. S. manufacturing is certainly a cost-effective option in many categories.  But almost all agree that China is, and will remain the primary sourcing hub for most apparel products.

Supporting the idea in theory is one thing ... but reshoring is easier said, than done.

Reshoring Challenges For Glove Companies

Can an American factory go head to head with a China factory, in an apparel category like sports gloves?

Writing this is bittersweet for a glove manufacturer whose roots are in the USA. After all, our company was founded here in the 1940's -- and until the late 1980's we were making gloves in Gloversville, NY. 

But cost-effective,"made in USA" glove manufacturing is a challenge for performance sports gloves, for 3 main reasons:

Labor:  Depending on the type of glove, labor is likely to be a significant cost component. And, labor rates are many multiples higher here -- which, for a cut and sew product, adds considerable cost.

Of course, a product like a simple industrial glove is much simpler to cut and sew.  But a technical, sports glove is a labor intensive product, and there aren't sufficient cost offsets in freight or other costs. 

Logistics/Supply Chain:  It is critical to keep a consistent flow of raw materials -- the leather, zipper pulls, and hundreds of other component materials that go into a glove line --  for the manufacturing supply chain to work efficiently.
 
Consider the logistics involved in bringing hundreds of glove components here, currently manufactured abroad. In addition to being hard to source domestically, import tariffs on components can add cost and complexity.

Retail Pricing:  Even if you could import the components and train a work force here, will a value oriented customer be willing to pay a retail price that is higher?

Despite the challenges, forward-thinking glove companies have to be weighing their reshoring options. We certainly are.

There can be many advantages: Shorter lead times/faster deliveries, greater sustainability, fewer offshore soucing risks ... and the social benefit of more US based jobs.

What Does the Future Hold?

The reality is, labor costs are increasing all over -- including China.

While it's too soon to talk about, we too are piloting some domestic manufacturing glove projects that will carry the "Made in USA" label.

Sometimes it's not just about buying product at the lowest cost. When diversifying your manufacturing baase, it's a fine balance ... but for companies that find the right balance, there can be a nice upside.

Bottom line?  There's still a lot of work to do. 

What's your experience with domestic sourcing? Leave us a comment, let us know what you think!

In Part 2 of this series, we explore the regulatory hurdles and recap the current availability of domestically made gloves.

Part 2: Imported vs. Made in USA Gloves: A Range of Options

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