Moe Vazin stands at the center of his American Maid Plastic booth in the middle of the International Housewares Show, surrounded by pitchers, cups, bowls, storage bins and kitchen containers of nearly every shape and size.
While the global economy may be suffering through its worst crisis in decades, the injection molding housewares company is growing, adding new business, trying out new molds and bringing work to American Maid's Carson, Calif.-based molding site work that previously was done in China, Vazin said at the Chicago event, held March 22-24.
We've got lots of business, said Vazin, who is CEO of VM International and its American Maid line. The myth of China is evaporating. The competition here and the improvements in [molding] technology and automation have made everything cheaper in price.
Ten years ago, a $1 cup or plate made at American Maid could be had for just 30 cents from China. Now the gap has closed and American Maid's product cost of $1 competes with China's price of 90-95 cents for something comparable. That makes the company's products easier to sell to big-box retailers that market to consumers looking for bargains.
At the same time, he's hearing from customers who find that labeling those products as made in the U.S. provides a whole new marketing angle in addition to price.
We're pushing our USA angle and are seeing a lot of our customers that are turning around and using it in their own sales, said Valorie Langille, sales manager for Arrow Plastic Manufacturing Co. of Elk Grove, Ill.
Arrow makes everything from plastic plates and glasses to pitchers, water storage containers and watering cans, and has supplied major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot for years. It recently began labeling all of its products with made in the USA stickers and providing displays with the same message. It makes a difference.
We get a number of people who walk in here and are surprised when we tell them that everything they see here was made just eight miles from here, said John Coursey, sales vice president and a partner in the private company.
Arrow also is able to combat what price differences may remain between U.S. and Asian production by offering just-in-time delivery that cuts its customers' warehousing costs.
And while price and quality remain leading issue, molders said, there is enough interest in the U.S. label to warrant adding it to displays both for retailer and general consumers.
Basic Line Inc. of Perth Amboy, N.J., takes it one step further, noting that its storage containers, hangers and other products are not only molded and designed in New Jersey, but the company uses only North American-made injection mold tools and American-made presses.
The U.S. angle will not work for processors that make parts for other firms, Vazin noted. Those firms still are forced to make parts where their original equipment manufacturers are located. But for a company like his that makes finished products, there are more options opening up.
It's a big push, and consumers are learning that they can feel good about buying something that supports American workers, and don't have to pay more, he said.