Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Locally made vs Overseas

I am encountering a conundrum about manufacturing here in Quebec. I love Quebec I support local as often as possible, have my organic food basket, I source my fabrics locally (cotton does not grow in Canada) whenever possible and listen to the CBC - ok well that is easy - they play darn good music and I won't be blind sided by some pop song that has been on heavy rotation. Don't get me wrong I like pop music too - but I don't need to hear the same song four times in one day.

My problem is this: I am a small led business who manufactures here in Quebec and I am starting to see why companies shift to overseas production. Here is something I sometimes hear from my retailers: "People love your line but they often say it is expensive- especially when compared to other things in the store made in China". Now I don't thumb my nose at all things made in China, I've been there and I LOVE China. Great food, friendly people and landscapes like no where else. Warning avoid monsoon season.

However, I can't compete with prices from China, nor do I want to. I know that the people I use (locally) are paid fair wages, my fabrics are designer cottons and organic bamboo and organic cotton's. Therefore those things cost a bit more but they do make a difference in the end product.

So my question is "should I stay or should I go?" All I can say is if I do go overseas I will do my research and make sure their business practices are one that I too can support, because the World is getting smaller everyday and I am very aware of the foot print I am leaving behind.

So let me put this question out there for you. How important is locally made and creating jobs here versus saving a buck or two and buying my favorite example "designed in Quebec/or Canada but on the flip of the tag "made in China" ? Something to think about and something I have been thinking a lot about.


Victoria Bennett Beyer said...

Hi there - I hope everything is good with you.

I know this is a question nearly everyone who makes things for a living has to ask themselves at some point, and it can be a hard decision when looking closely at the numbers.

I certainly don't hold it against folks when they do look overseas for components - we do live in a global economy - but I think it is a rare and beautiful thing to see a maker who is conscientious about all that goes into their product and wants to support their local economy. Yes, it always costs more, but for some people, it will be worth it, and for others, it won't.

I have bought my share of products that have been made cheaply overseas, but the older I get, the more I think about the fact that if those products were made locally, I wouldn't be able to afford as much of them. I believe I have grown up in a society that tells me the value of things is less than they really are. I have been, in fact, conditioned to think I can really afford 'stuff' that if made, say, on this continent, would be far more expensive because someone would be paid a wage that is 'normal' here. That's why folks think handmade or locally made things are too expensive. The alternatives aren't made by your neighbor and but if that was all you had access to, you'd think about the value of those products differently.

Anyway, I didn't mean for that to turn into a rant. I just think that our society in general has the wrong idea about the true monetary value of things. It is a tough thing to fight against - esp. for small businesses. At some point, just staying in business is the most important thing. I feel people are beginning to change how they value things, but are those few people enough to cater to? Only you can know what is right for your business. Good luck with everything :)

Lianne Hogan said...

Hi Victoria,

it is a real tough question. So far I have managed to maintain a business with a locally made motto- however if I want to "grow" I am feeling the push to look elsewhere. luckily in my research i am finding interesting solutions like fair trade in regions such as India. This is something I may move towards or may not. My search to keep it local is still not done- so stay tuned, and thank you for your thoughts on the subject- I totally agree with you. I hope your photography business is going well and hope you and yours are doing well.