A Commercial Observation

I was in Hobby Lobby with MomRed as she looked at different weights and textures of cotton flannel for a project. I started reading the ends of the bolts of fabric. Last month, we had gone to Jo-Ann’s to buy material for a different project, and I had noticed that everything came from China, at least every single bolt of material that I looked at. Fleece, twill, calico, muslin, denim, satin, cotton, polyester, everything I found came from a textile mill in China. The thread came from the US or Pakistan or India. Buttons tended to be US or, more often, France.

Most of the fabric in Hobby Lobby that I looked at came from not-China. Pakistan, India, Taiwan, but not China. I didn’t browse the notions, because I got drafted to look through the lower shelves in the remnants rack.

I’m seeing more and more places selling things not from China. Clothing isn’t made in China as much, at least not what I’ve browsed at stores ranging from WallyWorld to Dillards (upscale department store) to Talbots and LLBean. Plastics not made in China. Paper goods not made in China. Granted, a lot of things are still made in China, but the shift is getting more and more apparent.

Part of it is economics. Vietnam, Pakistan, India, are less expensive in terms of labor and other costs. The quality is as good or better. The countries are less likely to steal the product’s design specifications and use them to undercut and drive out the patent/copyright holder.

Part of it is also growing numbers of people like me, who are wary of Chinese made goods. Sometimes it is quality, sometimes personal political beliefs, sometimes fear based on past bad experiences. After all, if the Chinese government has no qualms about poisoning its own people with contaminated water, and fosters an atmosphere where baby formula can be fortified with toxins (at least until enough people scream), and doesn’t see a problem with companies shipping pet food that kills the pets, what else does the government turn a blind eye to, or encourage? Recent news about the “forced labor” contracted to major international corporations doesn’t help, either.

I’m also seeing more Made in the USA stuff, including things that were not made at home for quite a while. I will happily buy sheets made in Portugal, wool fabric from Italy (no US maker for that weight that sells retail), shoes made in the US or Britain, and other things. I prefer not to buy from China. All else aside, and there is a lot of else, the quality control on things from China has been poor, and the fits are worse.


12 thoughts on “A Commercial Observation

  1. I’ve read that some things labelled as made in Viet Nam are actually made in China. Pakistan isn’t that great either; they’re linked to the Taliban.

    • I’ve read about two separate issues on China/[Other country] labels.

      1) [Other country] imports items from China, ships it as if they originated it.
      2) [Other country] discovers that China is shipping items with counterfeit origination labels.

      Scenario 1 has been playing out in various places, notably Canada (I think it was aluminum) It was getting caught and complained about, at least through last year… I don’t know about Pakistan, though there’s some indications that China has acquired influence and politicians there.

      I do not believe that Viet Nam has been playing that game, but have read that they’ve been hit with scenario 2 counterfeits.

      Making the rash assumption that the Chinese manufactures are not totally stupid and crazy, scenario 1 material should be somewhat better in quality than scenario 2.

      FWIW, apparel from Viet Nam has been reasonably good.

    • No, Pakistan’s not great, Turkey has problems, Bangladesh . . . More and more clothing is coming from Central America, which I’m OK with if it really is from there. I’m all for the folks having jobs, even if I’d prefer the jobs were up here.

  2. I thought I saw this about Hobby Lobby but wasn’t sure. They also had stuff from Korea that was really nice. I guess I was assuming South Korea…

    • If it’s labeled Republic of Korea or Korea, it’s not the concentration camp unless they’re doing deliberate fraud. (Which I am sure they would do, given the chance, but it does raise the risks.)

  3. Ah yes, the ‘scam’ of country of origin… A lot of the stuff is now shipped ‘offshore’ so to speak, and reshipped as originating there… Reminds me of the late 70s and a shopping trip in Korea for sweaters for the wife/kids. They were all made in the same factory, you picked the label you wanted sewn in them. Stateside prices varied from $20-$140 for the SAME sweater that we bought for $4. Reebok and Adidas running shoes were $3 a pair.

  4. I have recently bought a new computer desk, chair to sit at it in, ‘armoir’ storage for the sewing room. I went through three chairs before finding one that could be put together properly, and the first two were made in China. The third I never could tell. (Successful was brand AK RAcing; they actually design chairs for people of different sizes and I bought the smallest one. They also claim to run their own factory, where ever it is.) The failed two were both made in China. The armoir was also made in China and we junked all attempts at getting it together after requesting a full replacement still didn’t provide enough properly drilled/shaped/etc pieces to put together. The computer desk came from Canada and is just fine – coming already assembled didn’t hurt either.

    I’m noticing more places stating place of origin for stuff, or people asking in question about this product sections, and I certainly avoid China-made items, when I can. For my non-chair furniture shopping I looked for wood, not MDF, which was difficult to find. Even the thrift stores mostly have MDF. I did finally find a fully wood chest of drawers I thought would do for sewing storage that I could bear to look at and also afford. I don’t think it’s made in China – it seems they don’t do fully wooden items. (crosses fingers.)

    I had no idea Hobby Lobby sold fabric. I know there are some that opened a few years back around here, I’ll have to check. Joann’s doesn’t always have what I want, and the other stores are mostly quilting fabric. Which can be beautiful but doesn’t drape, sometimes I want a drapey fabric..

    • Hobby Lobby does indeed have fabric, what they don’t have is aisle lables. I suggest taking a friend who knows where the fabric is, or asking the first employee you see, lest you wander in the wilderness of inspirational signs for forty years.

      My JoAnn’s has a lot less made in China fabric. Mostly Asian and Pacific Islands fabric has replaced it. JoAnn’s glass beads are still made in China, and so I brave Hobby Lobby for Czech beads, buy inexplicable amounts of caligraphy ink, and eventually wash up next door at the feed store.

  5. Oh, yes – I will cheerfully buy goods made in India, Mexico, Portugal, even Vietnam … but I am so done with buying krep from China, if an alternative can be found..
    And I will not, and have not purchased anything edible from China. Just … no. God knows what kinds of contaminants are in it.

  6. Fifteen years ago, I checked for made in AK vs. not in AK, in order to support the local economy and the fragile end of the logistics chain. But that was about as far as I went.

    Now, I check as an when able on everything, and while I like to support local businesses over money going out of state, USA vs. Not-in USA is a major factor, as well as Not China. If China is the only alternative, I stop and think long and hard about whether or not I actually need it.

  7. Since I read this post, I’ve been bothering to look while shopping online, and I’ve noticed that many American e-commerce sites will now often make a point of mentioning “Made in the USA” when they can.

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