BURLINGTON, VT, There is a huge push nationally to buy what’s made locally, “Made in Vermont, New Hampshire or New York.
But, while on-line shoppers hearts maybe in the right place, wanting to support what’s “Made in the USA”, when it comes right down to it, many times off-shore e-tailer competition wins out. Not just because of price and convenience, but deception.
There are as many reasons to shop on line as there are people.
“I don’t have to leave my house of anything.”
“The Made in USA stuff, it obviously has some cache”.
It’s why some off-shore companies take part in some misleading practices on-line, waving the red, white and blue. Making it appear their products are “Made in the U.S.A”.
“We compete on a world wide scale,” said Stacy Manosh, owner of Johnson Woolen Mills in Johnson, Vermont.
The family owned company has been turning home grown wool into products since 1942. “Made in Vermont” is the company’s calling card.
“You know we’re twenty eight hardworking people here,” said Manosh. “And we need to protect our brand, our reputation, what we do it’s very very important”.
Manosh knows that first hand. A customer in New York City’s Chinatown purchased two Johnson Wool products, copied them and started selling them on-line. They were knockoffs.
“They had more of my product than I shipped them,” said Manosh. “ It was being advertised as a Johnson Woolen Mills product, made in Johnson, Vermont by us”.
It was a wake-up call for Manosh. She now pays close attention to online sites that could be selling her products.
“We love the internet, we love the websites,” Manosh said. “ We believe that is a good wave for the future. But, buy it directly from that company”.
To stand out, Vermont, New York and New Hampshire all have campaigns encouraging consumer to think and buy locally first and that includes on-line.
In Middlebury, Vermont all of Mike Rainville’s products are “Made In Vermont”. Rainville owns 35 year old Maple Landmark Woodcraft Toys.
“Manufacturing as a word is diluted, “ said Rainville. “We have competition that say they have a couple products that say made in America and they use that to make people believe that perhaps all of their product is”.
However, their products are made everywhere but.
“Online is a little more sketchy because online retailers don’t really pay much attention to the rules”. Rainville said.
United States manufacturers are required to follow specific rules . They must label most products with the country of origin. Not all off-shore companies do. Some use misleading images, when in fact their products are made in Vietnam, India, China.
It’s why some lawmakers are going on-line, not to shop but to create what they call a level playing field for retailers and e-tailers.
Vermont Representative Peter Welch is behind “The Main Street Fairness Act”. It would require e-tailers to collect a state’s sales tax.
“So we want to have a uniform standard and require that it be collected,” said Welch. “Whether you make the purchase at a brick and mortar place downtown or over the internet and that gives our brick and mortar people a fighting chance to be successful.”
It was passed in the Senate. But, Welch admits it will get pushback in the House.
And some local internet shoppers said having to pay a tax could make a difference where they shop on-line.
Despite the headaches, knockoffs and unfair competition, for companies like Maple Woodcraft and Johnson Woolen Mills, the internet is their window to the world of retail and for them there’s no turning back.
“That’s how we connect with consumers, “ said Mike Rainville.
Stacy Manosh said “It’s going to be with us. It’s just a matter of us having the savvy to stay on top of it”.