Woody Young is determined to keep the Kit-Cat clock American-made.
The president of the California Clock Co. of Fountain Valley, Calif., took a stand at the International Housewares Show, held March 20-22 in Chicago, where his firm announced the formation of ATACK (Americans Take Action Condemn Knock-Offs).
Young was motivated when an overseas firm duplicated the Kit-Cat clock, whose parts are injection molded from ABS at his firm's factory in Torrance, Calif.
``They used cheaper plastics and it made noise,'' Young said in a March 22 interview at the show. ``They didn't know how to make a clock.''
The original, American-made Kit-Cat clock is a part of Americana, and should be produced in American factories, Young maintains. At California Clock's facility in Torrance, more than 40 injection molding machines make the parts that make clocks tick. It's not all dedicated to Kit-Cat clock production. The firm also supplies other clock makers.
Young says that when he test marketed the Kit-Cat clock with a major mass retailer, the mass merchant found a lower quality knockoff of the product that was produced overseas.
``I looked into a possible lawsuit,'' Young said. ``But I discovered that this mass merchant and others have become experts at working around established patents. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to fight back if your company is only a small fish in a big pond.''
Young bought California Clock in 1982. Later that decade, the company was facing scarcity and rising costs of American-made electric motors, officials said. But the company was able to invent new technology to get batteries to supply the power for animation and time keeping.
Over the last year, the company has laid off 150 employees from its staff of 300. Now, it operates 11/2 shifts, down from three. Last year the company had a downturn in its business with outside original equipment manufacturers.
``You don't make your margin in OEM. You make your money in proprietary,'' Young said. Now, California Clock is focused on marketing.
``Marketing is everything,'' he said. ``That's how we've stayed ahead of the curve.''
Other firms, such as Betras Plastics Inc., of Spartanburg, S.C., have joined ATACK as well.
``If mass merchants continue to knock off American creations, eventually it won't pay to create new designs and American manufacturers will continue to go out of business,'' said Henya Betras, co-owner.
``As the U.S. becomes glutted with less expensive reproductions, the economy suffers, ultimately leading to the loss of American jobs.''
The group plans to recruit more companies, eventually organizing boycotts and picketing stores that are the worst offenders, officials said.
``We've had our products reproduced in China without our permission and have been frustrated by the lack of available options to fight back,'' said Cass Cassidy, chairman and president of Neatnix Organizers, a division of American Innotek Inc., based in Escondido, Calif.
The firm outsources its production of drawer and closet organizers to U.S.-based manufacturers.
``We are trying to maintain our manufacturing capabilities here,'' he said. ``We're surviving OK.''