By Trish Holder
Several months ago, the sawdust hit the fan when it was discovered that Shanghai-based retailer, Da Vinci Furniture had been making its supposedly Italian-made furniture in China. To make matters worse, Da Vinci was charging the same high-end prices for substandard furniture made of questionable materials. A little investigation revealed a hideous and not-so-creative cover-up that could only be worthy of soap opera drama. Young and the Restless writers, are you listening?
So let me summarize this for you: Affluent Chinese consumers were ticked off to find they had paid good money for furniture made in China. Does anyone else see the irony here?
There was and continues to be a lot of hullabaloo over the controversy. Simply Google “Da Vinci Furniture Shanghai” and you’ll get some idea. The story originally broke in July 2011 and news is still trickling in. As recently as a few days ago the China Daily reported that Da Vinci was fined 1.33 million yuan ($211,777) – a sum that many argue was but a slap on the hand for this level of consumer deception.
Most Retailers Not Going Out on a Limb for American Consumers
Several months ago Tom Russell, an associate editor of Furniture Today reporting on the story wrote, “Chinese consumers are pretty savvy folks who demand truth in labeling.”
Is there a message there for U.S. consumers? Do we care where anything comes from any more?
I know I do, and I know a lot of people tell me they do as well. But I also hear many homebuilders, manufacturers, retailers, marketers, etc. they say that U.S. consumers (meaning you and me) don’t care – as long as the price is right. The implied message here is that until most consumers start demanding American made building materials and home décor items, these folks aren’t going to go out on a limb for “savvy” Americans who do care. And if my shopping experience this Christmas is any indication, they are staying true to their word. Most retailers are decidedly not going out on a limb. A recent shopping trip to various home goods retailers, both large and small, convinced me of this. I couldn’t find a single thing that was made in the U.S. or Canada at TJ Maxx, and nothing more than some handmade earrings at a local home décor and gift shop.
Would it really destroy the profit margin of these businesses to stock just a few American made goods? How else are we to learn how to discern the difference in quality, as clearly the “savvy” Chinese have learned to do?
Having the “You-Know-What’s” to Go Out on a Limb
I have to wonder, what do Chinese consumers think of American consumers? Are they laughing their butts off? If I were them, I’d have to chuckle. Our own manufacturing practices meet the highest standards in the world, but instead of supporting our economy and investing in quality, we continue to buy cheap crap from other places. Presumably so we can have as much cheap crap as possible.
But what is a consumer to do when there are no other choices? Well, you’re on your own when it comes to clothes, shoes, and electronics; can’t help you there. However, I can help you find home décor goods that are made in the US. In fact, Greenspiration Home has invested time and money in an initiative to introduce consumers to more American made choices for their homes. It is called our American Made Décor Pick-Week campaign. Each week we scour the internet for American made (and preferably environmentally responsible) home décor items that really catch our eye. We interview the companies and write a news release about our pick and distribute it through our own paid newswire service and various social media. Some of these releases get over a thousand reads.
Are these companies advertisers on Greenspiration Home? No. But we’re betting that at least a few will become advertisers. After all, we’ve stepped out on a limb for them because educating American consumers about domestically sourced home materials and goods is a big part of who we are.
Win or lose, at least we had the “you-know-what’s” to gamble on something we believe in. The question remains: Do you?