June 4, 2011
American Made In Your HometownBy Rusty Weiss
Nearly fifty years ago, Sam Walton opened the first of his Wal-Mart stores with a business plan tightly focused on American-made products. CEO, Mike Duke recently announced that, while the chain had formerly abandoned that focus in the name of cheaper prices, they have returned to their American roots, stocking a majority of products that are made in the United States. Experts remain skeptical.
The first such facility has opened in upstate New York. Aptly named Hometown USA, the store operates under a business plan that assumes "most of us would choose American-made over foreign imported products."
Limiting inventory to one type of product can create pitfalls for any company, especially a startup such as this. The store will no doubt have to compete against larger chains that can offer imported goods at lower prices. According to Scaccia however, price shouldn't be the only consideration for consumers.
"Imports may be cheaper but they are not better," he says.
But can he convince a skeptical consumer market struggling to stretch their dollars?
"We plan to change the way Americans shop by making the American consumer more aware. Look at labels before you purchase, call us, e-mail us, let us find it."
He adds, "Keep in mind that not all American made products are more expensive. If you look at the labels, I think you will be surprised."
Scaccia started this business based on a difficult Christmas shopping experience in 2009, in which he grew frustrated trying to locate gifts made in the USA. Despite that incident, he says it hasn't been as difficult trying to locate producers to build on their inventory.
"There are more products Made in the USA than most people think. It takes time to do the research, but now that we have a presence in the market we are getting a lot of input."
Hometown USA mostly sells products from other manufacturers, though they do build some items in-house, such as picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. And if any products are discovered to have been improperly bearing the 'Made in the USA' logo, Scaccia promises a refund to the customer, while the vendor is taken off the shelf.
But how does one guarantee accuracy in advertising? Many companies have gimmicks and tricks that allow them to lay claim to being American-made, but the truth may lie elsewhere. For that, Scaccia seeks government help.
"We use the FTC regulation," he says. "If the product is stamped Made in the USA, then it must be at least 70% made here."
He continues, "We hope the FTC is doing their job."
If everyone is doing their job, and producers are correctly advertising their products, then the only thing left to make Hometown USA a success is good old American elbow grease.
"Hard work and determination is the key to any successful business," Scaccia explains. "We are dedicated. In the short period of time we've been open, our sales have steadily increased. We set up at trade shows, plan events, and will be going to local fairs and we do fundraising. We think outside the box. In this economy, we need to be more than a retail store. We deliver, and we will bring our store to you."
His confidence intact, Scaccia's positive outlook may be buoyed by a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which provides a healthy outlook for American made products. According to the BCG, U.S. exports hit a record $173 billion in March, an increase of 37% from the previous year. One of the factors cited for the American manufacturing resurgence is a productive, motivated, and flexible workforce.
Scaccia is banking on that production and motivation to take his Hometown USA concept into other areas. Additional stores are on the horizon.
"We will be opening additional stores," he predicts. "We will be growing in a sustainable manner. The second store may not launch until 2012, but we will be adding them soon."
Scaccia is not only looking to sell American-made ingenuity, he's also visualizing the American dream. If his company follows the Walton path, you may be seeing a Hometown USA coming to your town.
Scaccia closes with this advice to consumers:
"Don't buy foreign-made products until you've searched for American made. Our economy depends on it."
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