Holiday shoppers pledge to 'Occupy Christmas' and buy American

Story highlights

  • Some consumers want to bolster domestic economy by only shopping for gifts made in USA
  • Many blogs, websites are dedicated to vetting products that claim to be made in the USA
  • For many American-made products, raw materials can only be sourced overseas
  • Contrary to popular belief, made in USA is affordable if you know where to look, bloggers say
Alexia Cameron is on a mission this holiday season to only buy gifts made in America.
It may sound difficult, but it's not as hard as it seems, she says. Search "made in America" or "made in USA" online and there are several pages of resources, including her blog, Haute Americana.
The 26-year-old Ohio woman started the site in March, after doing a search for clothing made in America and finding a lack of resources dedicated to "fashion-forward" items, especially for women. Taking inspiration from men's lifestyle blog A Continuous Lean and its "American List," she began digging around for designers who manufacture in the United States and posting her findings. With Christmas around the corner, she's got a scarf for mom, a suitcase for her boyfriend, jewelry for friends.
"What it's done for me is targeted where I shop," she said. "Because I was making this personal effort to buy made in America, I wanted the money I'm spending on Christmas to go back to the American economy while I share with my friends and family brands I've come to know and love."
Her effort makes her part of a small but passionate group of consumers pledging this year to "Occupy Christmas" and buy only American-made products. Motivated by a desire to help boost the domestic economy and reverse the tide of rising unemployment, for some, it means buying American. Others patronize mom-and-pop shops or crafts fairs or buy gift cards for local restaurants or services.
The buy American movement has been gaining momentum in recent years amid the economic downturn, steady unemployment and pledges from the Obama administration to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector. A 2010 Adweek Media/Harris Poll found that 3 in 5 Americans (61%) said they were more likely to purchase a product advertised as "Made in America." In an ABC News special devoted to the topic, Diane Sawyer challenged Americans to spend $64 on American-made goods during holiday shopping, claiming that it would create 200,000 new jobs.
"A lot of consumers believe it's a way to assist in all the issues we're dealing with," said University of Wisconsin consumer science professor Cynthia Jasper. "They believe that the money spent is reinvested in the local community in terms of taxes and jobs. Many consumers, because of the economic climate, want to to support their local communities."
In reality, however, the impact is small because most Americans still patronize big box stores that rely on overseas labor, she said. But that doesn't mean the potential impact couldn't be larger.
"Most of us want food and apparel made by people who have health insurance and basic needs covered, but that all adds to cost, which is why the U.S. is having a difficult time competing with labor costs in other countries," she said. "It's a trade-off, especially in this economy."
Is made in America a luxury?
Perhaps the clearest sign of its growing popularity is the recent proliferation of websites, blogs and Facebook groups dedicated to setting the record straight. Among these communities, it's common knowledge that quintessential American brands like Levi's and LL Bean are mostly made offshore, and the latest news about Wal Mart's labor policies tends to generate heated discussion.
"What's surprised me is how passionate people are about it that " said Mike Bederman, who runs the Facebook page, "Things Made in America." "I'll get a lot of 'likes' from people who are into it just a little bit, but then there's a handful of people posting all the time and correcting me and constantly coming up with ideas."
Bederman, a social media marketer in San Francisco, started the page eight months ago after seeing a television special on products made in China and connecting it to the container ships he saw coming into the San Francisco Bay each day.
"I wanted to find affordable ways not only to stimulate the economy but to create a platform for people to share ideas," said Bederman, whose page has 808 followers.
Sarah Mazzone's holiday pledge grew out of her blog, made in usa challenge, which began with a mission to find American-made products at Pennsylvania's King of Prussia Mall. This holiday, she's trying to abide by her "ten rules for 'Occupying the Holidays'" and making gifts and buying from artists at craft fairs and online craft marketplace, Etsy.
Sure, some things cost more, especially when it comes to apparel, but not if you take into account the cost-per-wear ratio, she said.
"It's important to take quality into consideration. Replacing your wardrobe each season with cheap fashions can quickly surpass the price of a well-made American garment. Additionally, there are many high-end brands with expensive merchandise that manufacture overseas, but do not pass these savings onto the customer," she said. "For example, that once iconic American brand of Coach now manufactures their bags in China, but still charges premium prices."
Not all things American-made are out of reach for the average consumer. And, thanks to a few diligent bloggers, they're easier than ev