As the U.S. trade war with China begins in earnest, a new online marketplace has launched that sells only American-made goods. But that’s not why the website was founded.
AnytownUSA.com, which went live June 29 with about 70 sellers, claims to be the only online marketplace devoted exclusively to a selection of American-made goods, founder Geralyn Breig says. The sellers include makers of handmade one-of-a-kind products, along with small- and large-scale manufactured merchandise.
Breig launched the website to offer consumers an easy way to shop for American-made goods online.
Breigalso saw pitfalls of depending too much on foreign suppliers when she was president of Clarks America. During that period, a 2014 series of riots Vietnam and a 2015 work slowdown by unionized dockworkers on the West Coast caused supply disruptions. Those situations demonstrated U.S. brands’ dependence on imports and how that creates vulnerabilities, she says.
But, like most people, Breig says she did not anticipate the recent series of tariffs that could significantly raise the price of imported merchandise.
“People have been talking about ‘made-in-U.S.A.’ forever,” Breig says. The current trade war, she says, merely brings more awareness to something consumers already care about. A number of surveys show that Americans, when given the choice, would rather shop for American-made goods, she adds. For instance, 67% said they would pay more for products if they knew their purchases would support American manufacturing, according to a Morning Consult survey of 2,201 American adults conducted in late October 2017.
But there are limits. Given the choice between a $50 coat made in the United States and a $50 coat made overseas, 84% of respondents said they would buy the U.S.-made coat. At $60 for the U.S. option and $50 for the foreign-made option, 70% said they would buy the domestic item. If the American-made coat was $75, 52% said they would buy it instead of the $50 coat from overseas.
Like a number of other recently launched marketplaces, AnytownUSA.com offers shoppers insights into the companies selling on the site.
For example, product pages on the website include links to “shop” pages for the sellers. The shop pages give sellers a chance to tell their stories to create connections between shoppers and sellers. Those pages also include links to all the products each seller offers on AnytownUSA.com. It’s also a place where customers can write reviews. Breig says this information is provided because forming relationships with customers is an increasingly important aspect of marketing—especially for companies marketing to millennials.
All products sold on AnytownUSA.com must comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) policy, which requires products advertised as “Made in the U.S.A.” to be “all or virtually all” made in the United States. Sellers are vetted to ensure their merchandise is compliant.
Breig says the number of SKUs on the site is “in the thousands,” but the exact number “changes by the minute,” and that’s by design. AnytownUSA.com takes a commission from sales but does not charge sellers to list each item. That way, she says, sellers can feel free to optimize their selections and experiment with product mixes. Sellers pay a $50 annual registration fee; a commission of 10.5% to AnytownUSA.com commission and a fee of 3.4% + 30 cents per transaction and processing fee to Shopify, which is the e-commerce platform used by AnytownUSA.com
“This site was created to be a win-win for the sellers and for us,” Breig says.
Without providing specifics, Breig says the site has so far exceeded expectations as measured against “every metric we have,” including web traffic, conversion rate and average order values.
Breig says the marketplace has no political agenda. Instead, she says the goal is to “build a neighborhood” online for consumers looking for American-made goods and domestic manufacturers.
In addition to the marketplace sellers, AnytownUSA.com includes affiliate links to brands that make products in the United States. Those include apparel retailer Carhartt Inc. (No. 754 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000), footwear manufacturers New Balance Athletics Inc. (No. 382) and The Frye Co., (No. 944) and leather good maker Rogue Industries. In each case, Breig says, the links lead shoppers directly to the brands’ American-made merchandise.
In addition to her past role at Clarks America Breig also has been president of Avon North America and president of Godiva Chocolatier International, formerly a division of the Campbell Soup Co. (Godiva Chocolatier Inc., now owned by Turkish conglomerate, Yıldız Holding, is No. 497 in the Top 1000).
She currently serves on the boards of directors of Welch Foods Inc. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. (No. 66).
This week, the U.S. Trade Representative released a new round of proposed tariffs on Chinese goods, listing 200 pages of items with a value of $200 billion. They target baseball gloves, handbags and digital cameras, among other goods. The move is in response to what the Trump administration says is China’s unfair trade practices, and comes after both nations already announced tariffs on $34 billion of each other’s products.