Business Climate Brightens For American-Made Personal Care
By Megan Salzano
NEW YORK- For the personal care category, the Made in the U.S.A. market is as strong as it has been in 20 years, manufacturers told HOMEWORLD BUSINESS ®.
The American-made label has become appealing to a larger group of consumers due to the continuing rise of the buy local movement and “the growing globalization of business” since the 2016 presidential election, said one vendor.
Steven Yde, dvp/marketing at Wahl, noted that since its beginning the buy local movement has evolved from a focus on food and rubbed off on larger shopping habits, despite the divisions that have been growing over the past decade, finding common ground among consumers.
As a result, awareness for domestically produced personal care appliances has increased dramatically since November, manufacturers said, spurring demand.
Liz Zadro, director of Zadro Products, said, “We can see our own production numbers, and what we’re manufacturing in the U.S. has definitely increased substantially, and it’s because orders have increased on the domestic made items since the election.”
Manufacturers added that the overseas market for American made products continues to gain ground in countries such as China, Russia, India, and the U.K. Vendors noted that in countries such as China wages are going up and consumers are looking to purchase American-made products that tout high quality and durability.
Zadro said, “We’ve seen an increased demand for U.S. made in the Asian market, and you can kind of start to see that slow shift to a consumer economy. It’s very slow but for the past few years we’ve seen that uptick.”
That growth in awareness for American-made personal care products both at home and abroad since November has caused retail to increase their involvement with the segment, manufacturers said. Zadro noted that while the election is still only six or seven months out and placement takes longer at larger retail chains, shelf space is already growing.
“For us, it’s exciting to see the shift. We started by making product in the U.S. , so we’ve seen that transition over the past 35 years, and it’s fantastic to see that all the investments that we’ve made are really starting to take hold,” she said.
In addition, vendors said potential U.S. policy changes meant to impact manufacturing both foreign and domestic have also persuaded retail to increase its involvement with the segment. Talk of revised import tariffs, for example, have spurred some retailers into action, vendors said.
“Retail is struggling so they are getting more pressure from management to maintain or grow those profit margins,” said Zadro. “It’s definitely in the back of their minds that they need to buy domestic.”
Wahl has seen the local movement benefit the personal care category
In the face of looming import price increases. Zadro said domestic production provides retail the ability to move forward with a set profit line and remove the worry over where their profits might shift.
In addition, Yde noted that domestic production provides faster reaction times, less inventory and better delivery times and customer service. Domestic policy changes have prompted some manufacturers to invest in the business with the expectation that demand will continue to rise. Vendors noted that regulatory pressures are beginning to be lifted in the U.S.
“None of it is official yet, but it’s a pulse that the market is going to improve for us,” Zadro said.
With that in mind, Zadro said the company increased its labor force by over 25% since November. The focus of that increase is for “productivity of the labor force, more of a skill set within the manufacturing world versus minimum wage labor,” she said.
The company has made investments into automation, robotics and computer animation in an effort to improve the processes throughout its warehousing facilities. “It’s exciting to see the robotics start to take place. It allows us to get the simple task going and then bring our labor force into more of a higher skill set. That’s been an exciting development for our personnel and for our local economy,” she said.
Zadro noted that while the company has been able to find the work force needed for the expansion, it was by no means easy.
“Unemployment in Orange County, California is pretty low right now,” she said. “The speed to hire is definitely a lot longer than it was. It’s something that takes time. We have to work pretty far out and you just can’t stop.”
Wahl’s Yde noted that despite difficulties in hiring, zero labor shortages exist within the manufacturing industry and instead result from a skills gap due to the focus today on college as the only means of career path.
Zadro said in order to ease the hiring process for skilled labor, the company tapped into local associations for specialized labor, including tool making and machine operations.