Why Made in the USA may be the Right Answer for New Brands
Posted: Jan 11 2016
For years, the trend was for apparel brands to send their manufacturing offshore. The labor savings were so extreme that production work seemed to move to Asia at record speed. But, as the saying goes, “what goes around, comes around” and the tables may be turning as new brands are deciding that there are significant benefits to having their apparel produced in the United States.
Coeur Sports is the embodiment of this trend. The company produces women’s endurance sports apparel and prides itself on ultra-high quality. The line includes women’s cycling, run, swim, lifestyle, and triathlon specific clothing.
Coeur Founder Kebby Holden considered sending work offshore, but elected to make a bet on U.S. based factories instead.
According to Holden, the rapid turn times and the ability to walk into the factory to check quality outweighed the perceived benefits of cheap labor that could be found with offshore factories. Holden explained that “Coeur is building a reputation as a premium brand and we like to take a total cost of ownership or TCO approach to manufacturing. We know that we could lower our manufacturing labor cost by going offshore, but we have come to believe that the reduced cycle time combined with an incredibly high quality from U.S. providers offsets the cost advantages that may be seen by going out of country.”
The high quality manifests itself in very low return rates from customers and that has a profound bottom line impact. Many online providers of apparel expect returns of 15% to 20%. Coeur has been able to reduce that number to single digits thanks to the near perfect quality that is delivered by their U.S. based factory.
Holden went on to say that Coeur doesn’t count on high quality manufacturing alone to be successful. The shortened supply chain also provides significant benefit. Having a local factory cuts weeks off of the production cycle time and that means more time selling the clothes and less time waiting for them to arrive.
For example, Coeur’s 2016 line of triathlon clothing was produced in time for a 2015 holiday sale that would have been impossible if the goods had to be shipped from Asia.
The shortened supply chain allowed Coeur to promote their 2016 line early
Another development that has aided Coeur and other similar brands is the ease with which they can find U.S. based providers. In the past, you almost had to drive through the fashion district and knock on doors to find factories willing to work with new brands. Now, thanks to tools like Makersrow.com, new companies can identify a variety of companies that are ready, willing, and able to take them on as customers.
So, if you’re thinking about starting a new apparel brand, don’t automatically assume that manufacturing offshore is the way to go. Do the math on having a U.S. factory first. You might be surprised at how the numbers play out.