The term "Buy American" may not have been used, but the Depression called for a reevaluation of attitudes and priorities. This article discussed department store buyer's notions of quality and retailers presentation of US made goods as inferior to those made in France.
Every year the boats take hundreds of department store buyers to Europe. American department stores have been sending buyers to the foreign markets for many years, in order that their stocks reflect the best the world affords. This is a good principle to follow in merchandising.
In all of the years, however, that buyers have been going to Europe we have built up in our minds a number of convictions concerning foreign merchandise vs. domestic. We have an idea that only France can produce fine weaves, only in England can they tan leathers really to the queen's taste, only in Paris are there workers who understand beaded bags. This is true, partly. But meanwhile this attitude is depriving the American manufacturers of the support they need if they are to develop the craftsmanship which will produce the quality product just as we possess a mechanical efficiency which makes us leaders of volume production.
There are manufacturers in our own handbag industry who can make fine handbags; using any of the raw materials; leathers, fabrics, metals and beads. We have manufacturers who can make elaborate frames, entirely new in form and decoration. We have workers in the bead bag industry with the taste and skill to make evening bags which could equal anything from Europe.
And yet, these manufacturers, these artisans are being neglected while buyers continue to spend their appropriations for quality merchandise in Europe.
There is much to be gained from the point of view which includes the entire world as a source for the necessities and luxuries which the American people can use. But if we, the American people, are to have a reputation for making anything but Fords, dollar handbags and similar evidences of mass production, we must foster the feeling of craftsmanship in our home industries.
The department stores can be an immense help in stimulating various industries to develop quality products in this country. Our tanneries have the technical knowledge, the equipment and the raw materials necessary for turning out the finest of leather. Yet they are forced to stick to producing ordinary leather to meet the low price standards which have been set for domestic products.
In the handbag industry we can make handbags better here than they do abroad. Yet the American public is still taught to think the label "Made in France" means a superior product. Stores should tell the truth about our own fine handbags, customers would learn to ask for those made in America and our domestic manufacturers would be encouraged to try to improve their products still further. Now they are forced, to aim the greater part of their production at the lower price lines, knowing that stores plan to carry, in their assortments at the higher retail price points, mainly imported bags.
Let us continue to shop the European markets. For ideas, for examples of good craftsmanship, to enlarge our own scope. But let us at the same time encourage our manufacturers at home to produce the best possible, and let us insure them a market for these products among the American people, through our department and specialty stores. (Luggage & Leather Goods Dec. 1953 page 31)