T and I were astonished last summer to notice a "made in China" label on a bottle of bubble solution. This is a statement about how mindbogglingly cheap international shipping is, given that even in the US, it can't cost more than pennies to make a plastic bottle, put a label on it, and fill it with water and soap.
Given that, how on earth is an American manufacturer supposed to compete? I want to talk about the couch that we just bought, because it offers one answer to that question.
The couch is made by Carolina Chair. This is a small, family-run company. (Seriously, when I asked Cathy in customer service what something would cost, she said "let me ask my brother and get back to you.") They're surviving in the era of globalization by:
- making a high quality product
- cutting out the middleman -- they only sell direct to customers
- cutting out inventory -- every piece is custom made, and they don't start making it until you place your order.
- providing incredible customer service -- truly friendly and helpful -- they even emailed us a photo of our couch in their manufacturing plant.
I found them via googling for a love seat/chaise combo because the ones we were looking at from Pottery Barn were really just a bit too big to fit in our living room. When I emailed them, they were quite happy to make one just the right size for us, in the fabric of our choice. (Ours is the 3rd one down on this page. Yes, it's very red.) It made me a little nervous to order something like a couch online, but this Wall Street Journal article reassured me. So we went ahead, feeling good about supporting an American company.
And we're really happy with the couch.