By: Rachel Murray, staff writer Dayton Daily News
The percentage of clothing purchased by consumers that was made in the United States has dropped dramatically since the 1990s, and one local company hopes to contribute to a turnaround for American made apparel.
Just 2.5 percent of the clothing purchased by American consumers last year was made in the U.S., down from close to 56 percent in 1991, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association.
Add to that a recent Federal Trade Commission crackdown on deceptive “made in the U.S.A.” claims, which experts said may have eroded consumer confidence, plus the news that California-based American Apparel hasn’t turned a profit in four years, and the outlook for U.S.-made clothing appears bleak.
Photo credits: Jim Witmer, Dayton Daily News
But not to the owners of All American Clothing Company in Arcanum, a small village that sits an hour north of Dayton in Darke County. The business sells U.S.-made jeans, T-shirts, socks, shoes, and more, primarily online at allamericanclothing.com, and uses technology to show customers its apparel is made in the U.S.
“I won’t disclose profit specifics, but we are a now multi-million dollar company. We grow every year. We haven’t had a down year yet. We are up 10 percent for the year and we expect that to go up as we get into our busier holiday shopping season,” All American Clothing Company co-founder and president B.J. Nickol said.
His father and co-owner Lawson Nickol said more growth is on the horizon.
“We are just about ready to look into wholesale. We have had over 500 companies ask us to make products for them. We are not ready for that yet, but it’s just around the corner,” the senior Nickol said.
Lawson Nickol said he started the company in 2002. He said when his former apparel company employer decided to move jobs to Mexico, he quit two days later and hasn’t looked back.
“We set a two year deadline. We expected it would take some time, and it did. The first two years we took in $1,800, and that’s it. We ate a lot of Cheerios morning, lunch and in the evening to make it, and as we moved into the third year we were making an income,” Lawson Nickol said.
The company moved from an eight-by-eight foot closet “warehouse” to it’s current location at 1 Pop Rite Drive and now has over 40,000 square feet, and employs 12 people, according to All American Clothing Company director of marketing and communications, Logan Beam.
“Our 12 full-time workers can support over 12,000 American jobs in many different industries, from American cotton farmers, to truck drivers, to the U.S.A.-made box the product is shipped in, to the postman who delivers the product to your doorstep. It’s about supporting jobs,” Beam said.
But how can consumers be sure they are getting a product made entirely in the U.S.?
The FTC recently filed a complaint against Columbus-based Made in the USA Brand, which provided a “Made in U.S.A.” certification seal to companies and marketers.
“The issue was that the certifier was taking no steps to independently confirm that the companies using its mark made products in the U.S.A. We saw some examples where companies were using the mark to promote products that were not made in the U.S.,” said FTC staff attorney Julia Solomon Ensor.
Made in the USA Brand agreed to a consent decree that it would either need to independently audit products that used it’s certification mark, or give companies a logo that stated that the product was self-certified as made in the U.S., without any independent confirmation, Solomon Ensor said.
She said it’s an issue of trust.
“It’s vitally important that these claims are truthful. Our primary mission here at the FTC is to prevent consumer deception,” Solomon Ensor said.
All American Clothing Company has its products certified by another firm, Made in the USA Certified, which states that each company must undergo a rigorous audit to show all of its products are produced in the U.S., but it also goes a step further.
All of the jeans sold have a certificate of traceability.
“The certificate provides a traceability number, and with that number a consumer of All American jeans can log onto allamericanclothing.com and go through the process of how their jeans were made. We will show them the American workers who produced these jeans back to the American cotton farmers who grew the cotton,” Beam said.
Most American Clothing Company Jeans are priced at $48.99, T-shirts range from $8.99 to $20, which is comparable to many name brands.
Utilizing a network of cotton farmers in Texas, the cotton is harvested and shipped to a denim mill in Lubbock, Texas, from there it’s sent to one of two cut and sew factories in Texas or Kentucky, then the finished jeans are shipped to the warehouse in Arcanum. There the jeans get a “made in the U.S.A.” patch before they are shipped to consumers, Beam said.
“Buying made in the U.S. products gives people a sense of pride. Consumers are proud to buy something that’s made here. They are supporting their own and getting a quality product,” B.J. Nickol said.