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Friday, November 23, 2012 - Page updated at 06:00 p.m.
Holiday shoppers’ new mantra: made in USA
By Shan Li
Los Angeles Times
Get ready for a red, white and blue Christmas.
With a sluggish economy, high unemployment and a just-finished presidential election laser-focused on jobs, many consumers say they are more eager than ever to buy gifts made right here in America.
Shoppers don’t have to rifle through stores or flip over labels this year. Many retailers are proudly touting their wares with made-in-the-USA credentials in hopes of wooing shoppers eager to show their patriotism through their pocketbooks.
“Finding presents that are made here makes them special. It’s usually more unique and not something that you can find just in Target,” said Jodi Dirk, 31, of the Los Angeles area. “So if I find stuff this holiday that’s made in the U.S., that’s a big bonus.”
That’s not always an easy task.
Industry experts say 85 percent of the toys sold in America are made in China and more than 95 percent of the clothes are produced overseas. Most consumer electronics, too, are assembled beyond U.S. borders.
So most of the Hanukkah gifts and presents under Christmas trees this year are likely to be manufactured outside the country.
But not if Yvonne Lopez has her way. The Los Angeles accountant wants to give gifts that are made in America this holiday, and she’s willing to search for them. “If I spend money, I’d rather spend it on a local designer and support the local economy, which is so important right now,” she said.
Across America, experts say, shoppers like Lopez are on the lookout, and stores and designers of all kinds say they are pushing their homegrown roots.
“Consumers care more about products made in the U.S. now, and all of our branding is crafted around being made here,” said David Koral, co-founder of high-end denim line Koral Los Angeles, which makes all its jeans in Southern California.
Whether you’re a recent convert or a faithful supporter of goods made here, experts offer some creative — and often thrifty — tips to wrap this holiday with stars and stripes.
Finding American-made toys among the sea of dolls, trucks and games can be a challenge for any shopper.
That’s because an “overwhelming amount” of toys are produced in foreign countries such as China, Indonesia and Mexico, said Jason Moser, an industry analyst at Motley Fool. The labor and production costs are usually much lower than in America, he said, and, as a result, the price is often right.
A modest selection of U.S.-made playthings can be found at big retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys R Us. But parents who are serious about made-in-the-USA toys will have to devote more time to tracking them down.
Simply searching the Internet will turn up an array of toy makers that have been in business for decades churning out kid-friendly items here at home.
But think classic toys, such as building blocks, rather than high-tech ones with remote controls, smartphone applications and other digital whirligigs.
At Maine-based Roy Toy, co-owner Sue Dennison said shoppers scoop up the company’s wood building sets. Some best-sellers — including a 37-piece kit for a log cabin — have been produced since Roy Toy was founded in the 1930s.
“In the 1990s, making our toys in America actually worked against us in a lot of ways because everybody was importing from China,” Dennison said. “Now you would be hard-pressed to find a small mom-and-pop store that didn’t have a section of made-in-America toys.”
The 2007 recalls of lead-tainted toys made in China pushed parents to scrutinize where their children’s dolls, model cars and other playthings came from, said Laurie Schacht, co-publisher of The Toy Insider guide. As a result, some companies moved at least part of their production back home to soothe shopper worries and also burnish their brand’s reputation.
“That big panic was one of the first things that really pushed the button on made in America,” she said.
With safety top of mind, Irene Lopez, 62, of Los Angeles is carefully hunting for gifts tagged “made in America.” The homemaker says she worries that her grandchildren might chew or handle toys with toxic components.
“You always want to make sure they’re OK,” she said. “Also, I’d rather get something more unique that can’t be found at every store everywhere.”