So what has happened to the conventional wisdom that you can’t manufacture home goods in the U.S. any more?
The other day, the news came down that Faribault Woolen Mills, which had closed its factory in Minnesota in 2009, is reopening it. And earlier this year, HomeSource International cut a deal with Enola Manufacturing in Florida to make some of its bedding at its facility there.
Everyone in the textiles community can recite the arguments against having a domestic manufacturing presence in their sleep: It’s too costly because of labor; our productivity isn’t as high as it is in other, lower-cost manufacturing countries; those countries caught up to us in quality. These and others are the reasons that we don’t have big mills turning out zillions of dozens of sheets and towels, and why textiles companies large and small turned to manufacturers in China, India and other places for their production long ago.
But look at what’s happened in recent years. Asian manufacturing still costs less than it does here, but the differential has narrowed with labor being a lot less cheap and with the increase in demand in those countries. Shipping the stuff has become a good deal more expensive because oil prices have been on a dramatic upward surge.
A couple of years ago, a veteran textiles executive suggested to me that it just might make sense for manufacturers to start making their goods in the U.S. Today, all of sudden, this remark no longer sounds like sacrilege. - David Gill