Buying your kid a toy can get pretty depressing.
Seriously, can you name a single children’s toy made in the good ol’ US of A? When you get right down to it it really seems like nothing gets made around here anymore. I remember when I was a kid my parents complained about Japanese cars being sold here, and after a while we were buying Japanese Betamax machines and Walkmans and gosh didn’t it seem like the Japanese were just taking over the country one CD player at a time?…
Boy, those sure were the good old days. Nowadays it seems like the entire United States Industrial capacity was packed up and shipped over to China. Your phone, your shoes, your furniture, your clothes, whatever – all being made in China- but believe it or not, I am not about to go on a huge China bashing rant here. This is really complicated geopolitical junk and I sell flooring for a living (and occasionally write an overly eager blog about it) so who am I to point out how badly we have screwed things up? Like I said, this is a blog on flooring, so why don’t we talk about flooring manufacturing and why there is reason for you to (for once) be a proud American.
Have you ever heard of Dalton, Georgia? Its a tiny little town in North Georgia that just so happens to be the Carpet manufacturing center of the world. Shaw, Mohawk, Karastan, Beaulieu, Dixie Home – they all have facilities making carpet in Dalton; if you have carpet somewhere in your house you can be pretty certain that it is made there -so we got that going for us right?
But what about all the other types of flooring? Hardwood, Laminate, Tile? All from China right? Well if you had asked me that a few years ago I likely would have said yeah, it sure seems to be headed that way. China has a huge advantage in labor costs. They are so low in fact that was more cost effective for companies to ship raw material over there, have it manufactured, and then ship it back here to bring to market, instead of just making it here. Add in the fact that China has been known to push the limits with fair trade agreements and you have a recipe for trouble. Over the past ten years there has been a massive influx of Chinese flooring into the U.S. market and some major retailers here have been more than happy to bring it to market. So why am I saying there is reason for hope? You ever own a boat? If so, then you know the pain at the pump that they cause. Now consider the fact that fuel prices have more than doubled in the last six years and you see that it is no longer such an attractive proposition to ship raw material on a big honking boat all the way to China and then ship the finished product on a big honking boat all the way back. And the bit about the Chinese playing fast and loose with trade agreements? The United States International Trade Commission has recently levied a judgement against Chinese wood flooring manufacturers for “Dumping” – which is a practice of selling material for less than it’s cost in an effort to take market share, and there are discussions that are ongoing about levying a duty on imported Chinese hardwood. All of these developments the past couple of years have caused a real reverse migration – leading Manufacturers and suppliers are now re-opening shuttered mills and churning out new lines of hardwood made right here in the U.S. There are premiere brands like Anderson, Shaw, Mohawk, Columbia and Armstrong that all have extensive lines of competitively priced wood flooring made right here in America. Laminate flooring? Same story – Manufacturers like Shaw and Columbia are leading a very nice resurgence in American made Laminate flooring. Tile? Well maybe not so much, but where there is a will there is a way right??
So what about the stuff that IS coming from China? Is it no good? It’s a mixed bag, just like anything else. There is flooring coming out of China that isn’t so great and there is flooring that’s coming out of China that is really top notch. Take tile for example – it has always been the case that if you want high quality tile you made sure it came from Spain or Italy; Tile manufacturers in those countries saw what was happening and opened brand new, state of the art facilities in China. These new plants produce some of the highest quality, fashion forward tile available today. I know, how do you tell which is which? Consider the dealer. Are you buying this product from a publicly traded, impersonal corporate behemoth, or are you buying it from a smaller, regional independent? Once you Google them you will see the reason. A smaller independent cares deeply about his community and is very careful about his reputation, and is therefore very careful about what products he has in his store. The other guys? I suggest you Google their name and put the word “complaints” after it and see for yourself the type of flooring they are willing to sell. for more on that I suggest you read a few more of my blog posts, just sayin.