By  on May 13, 2009

It’s the appeal of national pride matched against the lure of price.

The “Made in USA” label, particularly in hard economic times, resonates with some American consumers, but may do little to offset the enticement of lower cost for shoppers determined to seek value and savings during the recession.

Brooks Brothers, for one, is placing a bet that marketing the decision to manufacture 70 percent of its tailored clothing in a new $20 million, 92,000-square-foot factory in Haverhill, Mass., will generate goodwill and boost sales.

“It gives us the ability to have the right product, in the right stores, at the right time,” said Lou Amendola, Brooks Bros.’ chief merchandising officer, adding the facility allows the retailer to be more efficient, and responsive to customers.

“We believe we are entering a new era, where consumers will increasingly focus on purchasing products they know are ‘Made in America,’” he said.

Brooks Bros.’ advertising, marketing and labeling campaigns, which are in development, will spotlight product made in the new facility, accentuating the brand’s U.S. roots, he said.

The firm, founded in 1818, has a heritage of U.S. production. It makes ties in Long Island City, N.Y., and shirts in Garland, N.C. Shoes are produced in the U.S., England and Italy, and apparel is made in Italy and Asia. The plant may allow the company to eventually expand to other categories that are now without concentrated manufacturing in the U.S., Amendola said.

The U.S. remains one of the most expensive nations in which to make products, which is why manufacturers have moved abroad, particularly to Asia and South America. But as the country struggles with job losses, business failures and cutbacks and shrinking consumer expenditures, purchasing domestic products promoted for their high quality and nimble distribution could combine with the emotional appeal of helping to get America back on its feet.

Workers at Des Plaines, Ill.-based Hartmarx Corp. are trying to tap into that sentiment as they, along with union leaders and elected officials, intensify pressure on creditor Wells Fargo to continue to fund the bankrupt men’s company to avoid liquidation and save an estimated 3,600 jobs while a prospective sale is being negotiated.

This comes as some manufacturers are disenchanted with higher shipping and labor expenses for outsourced goods.

“The time is right for feeling good about America again,” said Steven Smith, creative director of BrandEquity, a visual marketing and brand communications firm that 15 years ago convinced U.S. athletic producer Penn to make red, white and blue tennis balls. “There is nothing wrong anymore in touting the fact something is American made.”

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