New Balance Athletic Shoes – Made In USA? Yeah, Right!

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New Balance CM473KO

OK, I’ll admit it again… I’m a skeptic.

This is a continuation of my discussion about the disappearance of American manufacturing jobs, and the lengths that companies will go to in an effort to sugar-coat the fact that they have shipped their manufacturing overseas. See my previous post, Made In USA? Yeah, Right! Today, I’ll look at The New Balance Athletic Shoe Company, of Boston, Massachusetts. According to their Internet domain name registration, they are located at 61 North Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02134. Could someone explain where they came up with a name like “New Balance”? Is that a place (like “New Mexico”)?, a state of mind?, an allusion to better posture?, a reference to a new corporate reincarnation (as opposed to the (old) Balance Shoe Company? All of the above? None of the above?

Where does the name Nike come from? In Greek mythology, Nike was the goddess of victory. Where does the name Adidas come from? That one is a bit more obscure. Adidas is a contraction of “ADI (Adolph) DASsler“, that company’s founder’s name. Bet ya didn’t know that one! But remember, long before people were wearing Nike and Adidas, there were Keds! And although a bit off-topic, what do Adidas, Pepsi and the defunct chain of department stores called E.J. Korvette’s have in common? Find the answer here.

I’ve been wearing New Balance shoes since back when they really were making them in the USA. But today, it seems, most of their shoes say “Made In China”. The New Balance shoes that do say “Made In USA” say so on stickers affixed to the tags inside the shoes, but not on the shoes per se, and not on the box the shoes come in. I’m highly suspicious that their shoes labeled “Made In USA” are being made “lock, stock and barrel” in China, and that little manufacturing, other than perhaps inspecting them and placing a “Made in USA” sticker on them is actually being done in an American factory, by American workers.  According to this article in Fortune Magazine, 75% of New Balance shoes are made in China and Vietnam.  Perhaps an even more interesting aspect of the Fortune article are the shoes that many of those Asian factories produce on their “Third Shift” or “Ghost Shift”.   These shoes, produced in New Balance’s  foreign factories, aren’t exactly counterfeits, but they aren’t exactly genuine New Balance shoes either.  It’s an intriguing problem that companies such as New Balance face when moving their production offshore.  It also makes you wonder whether moving their production offshore might not be costing New Balance more than they are saving in labor costs.  Then there’s New Balance’s other problem, the  “Henkee”.

nb-1.jpgLet’s start with the box the shoes come in. It appears to be made in China. On the bottom of the box there is a logo and a few characters next to it, printed in (Mandarin?) Chinese. Well, let’s give New Balance the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps only the box is made in China.

Upon opening the box, I find a hang tag attached to one of the shoes that proclaims that New Balance is “Committed to American Workers”. Really? Almost hilariously, it also says “Solidaire des Travailleurs Americains”. I thought we speak English in America. Mon Dieu! (Je parle tres, tres peu Francais, mon ami.)

The back of the tag enigmatically states “New Balance has proven that high quality, width-sized athletic footwear can be made by Americans for discriminating consumers. We are proud of this fact“. Now, I know this is probably just paranoia on my part, but it only says that they’ve proven it. It doesn’t actually say that THIS pair of shoes was made by Americans. Perhaps I’m taking their wording too literally. I’m sure that a closer inspection will prove that I’m all wrong about this.

The inside of the hang tag has the following message in both English and French. I guess that’s because, as we all know, the official language of the United States is French…

These shoes have been produced by the New Balance team in one of our five U.S. factories. Unfortunately, we are not able to obtain all materials and components for these shoes in the U.S. either because they are not available, or because economic or quality considerations dictate foreign sourcing. The Federal Trade Commission has attempted to determine what it means to say a product is “made in” the U.S. We believe most consumers think “Made in U.S.A.” means that real manufacturing jobs were provided to U.S. workers in order to make the product. These shoes were made by U.S. workers using U.S. and imported materials. Where the domestic value is at least 70%, we have labeled the shoes “Made in U.S.A.”. Where it falls below 70%, we have qualified the label referencing domestic and imported materials. This determination is based in part on the FTC’s survey of consumers. The FTC’s analysis of the “Made in U.S.A.” issue can be found at FTC.gov or for a copy, write to New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., 20 Guest Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02135. Attn.: Communications”

Since this pair of shoes does say “MADE IN USA OF IMPORTED MATERIALS”, I think we can safely say (based on New Balance’s own statements) that the domestic value is below 70%. How far below 70%? Could the “domestic value”, meaning the percentage of it’s value produced in the United States be .00001% ??? Could it mean that little was done in the United States other than attaching the tag I quoted from, above? Call me skeptical. Call me a disbeliever. Accuse me of being too logical. The fact is that New Balance doesn’t actually tell you how much of their product is made in America. Their explanation of the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines are very educational, but I think that New Balance is trying to mince words. It’s probably just skeptical me. I’m sure once I take a look at the shoes themselves, I’ll be convinced they were “made by Americans”.

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The label affixed to the inside of the shoes has a lot of information printed on it. There’s the shoe’s size, width, model number, a barcode and some other numeric data, which probably indicates to New Balance where and when the shoes were manufactured. Interestingly, the label does not say where the shoes were made. That information is contained on a sticker, which is affixed to the label, which is affixed to the shoes. That sticker says…

“MADE IN USA OF IMPORTED MATERIALS

FABRIQUE AUX E.-U.

A PARTIR DE MATIERES IMPORTEES”

I wish I was more fluent in French. It would come in handy when reading the labels inside shoes that are “Made in USA”.

Now, what kind of an idiot do I look like? I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but there are at least a few neurons firing. Why would New Balance print a label that does not state the country of origin, only to add a sticker that says “Made in USA”? My guess (and probably yours) is that they can’t legally import a product into the United States that says “Made in USA”, even if they add the qualifier about imported materials. In my opinion, New Balance is taking advantage of the FTC’s ambiguous guidelines regarding what can be identified as being made in the United States. Call it fine print, mouse print, weasel words, or whatever you wish. This loophole is used by many companies, although some will actually break down which components of their product are foreign made, and which are produced in the USA. I wish New Balance went at least that far, stating, for example, “Uppers and insoles made in USA, all other components made in China”, but they do not break down which components are imported, leading me to believe that the shoes are pretty much manufactured entirely in China. Actually, they don’t even say where the components were imported from.

Are you wearing a pair of New Balance shoes that say “Made in USA” on the tags inside? Go ahead… Take off your shoes and closely inspect the tag. Go ahead. No, really… I’ll wait. Go ahead. (RoutingByRumor taps their feet and whistles a few notes while waiting for you.)

Nice socks. You must be a very religious person, considering those holey socks. ROFL. Now look closely at those tags in your shoes. Does the tag actually say “Made in USA”, or is there a sticker that says “Made in USA” that is stuck to the tag? See! Exactly as I suspected. Whew. Eeeeeeeeewwwwww. Better put those shoes back on now. Thanks.

Perhaps I have this all wrong. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions about where New Balance shoes are actually made. If New Balance wishes to provide specific details about exactly how much of their product is made in the United States, I’d love to add that information to this article. Are all the components sewed and glued into a finished product in the USA? I’d hope so, but I sincerely doubt it.

If my suspicions about New Balance’s labeling practices regarding their “Made in USA” products are correct, they would certainly qualify for induction into RoutingByRumor’s Hall of Shame.

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “New Balance Athletic Shoes – Made In USA? Yeah, Right!

  1. Moll

    Thank you for the interesting and great read!

    I too purchased my NB because of the “Made in USA” …however, I know I really need to read the fine print when it comes to materials.

    thanks again.

    - Chicago, Illinois

    • Veronica

      Good grief! I was going to by NB for the obvious reason. Now I know they are not “Made In The USA”. But what really gets my goat is the plotting to fool the consumers. Thanks for your article. My husband says my little boycotts won’t really change anything but it’s my way of taking a stand and I will continue.

      - Savannah, Georgia

  2. Dan Fowles

    Interesting article, I just bought a pair of new balance trainers and was suprised when they read ‘Made in UK’, as most companies use foreign labour these days. Then I saw this article and began to suspect, but on further research it seems the ‘Made in UK’ shoes are indeed made here in a factory in cumbria, in this video you can clearly see them in various stages making the shoes. Most of the running shoe range as far as I can tell are fully ‘made in UK’ too, not just their higher end range.

    Hmm, maybe I was wrong…found this in a forum thread:

    “I wish to rain on New Balance’s parade too much but their ‘Made in the UK’ are a bit of a joke…

    Their specialist running shoes arrive from their factory in China in two parts – a fully formed and moulded midsole/outsole part and a fully made & stitched together upper.

    - the uppers are taken out of their box, are then stretched onto a plastic foot, someone pastes some glue onto the bottom of the upper, then the midsole/outsole comes out of its box and is stuck to the upper.

    - that apparently = “Made in England”

    The finished shoes are then boxed up and shipped to their distribution warehouse (in Holland) where they are then re-shipped out to their final destinations (some in the UK obviously).

    I’ve had a tour of their factory in Flimbey seeing all this for myself and my colleague has seen their factory in China.

    Their suede ‘heritage’ (non-running) shoes have their uppers cut and stitched together all in the UK though.”

    I know that some of their shoes are assembled totally within the factory..but still, its dissapointing !

    - United Kingdom

  3. Barbara Benson

    My nb shoes were made in china.

    - Wisconsin, USA

    • Shirley Charvat

      My New Balance shoes also say made in China so I called New Balance and the support rep said that some NB shoes are made in China. He also told me that you have to look at the tongue to see where their shoe is made.

      - AT&T, Chicago, Illinois

  4. Andy Sanders

    Id like to thank this website for the information.

    Today we bought NB shoes and were ecstatic that they had the “Made in USA” tag.

    I was disappointed to discover (thanks to this website) that the tag was really a sticker.

    These shoes were a gift from my girlfriend and were not cheap.

    I would never spend this much on shoes, but in order to support a USA product and workers, I was willing to change my ways.

    Tomorrow I will return the shoes, because I feel that I was deceived.

    I will just buy cheap ($30 or less) imports that were created by cheap labor instead of “possible” expensive imports created by cheap labor.

    - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  5. Chandra Corcoran

    WOW. I recently started working at a “great American retailer” in the shoe department and tried to find a pair of shoes made in the U.S.A…. no luck! I would guess there are about 1000 different shoes and I have been checking every shoe I touch. I have found two made in Indonesia, but the rest are from China. The Reebok’s with an old style box are made in Indonesia, but the new ones are from China. We carry a large selection of New Balance; I have yet to see these made in the USA stickers other people have mentioned. This is alarming to say the least. A guy told me the other day that he bought a pair of work boots from this store I work in back in 1979 and he still wears them. They have a small tear, but other than that, they are still in great shape. We won’t be hearing this story in 2040, that’s for sure!

    - Indian Harbour Beach, Florida

  6. Jean

    As an American of S. Korean descent, I too seek products that claim to be made in the USA or at least not China. Heck, even poor Asian countries relabel merchandise to make them “from Korea” or “Japan”. However I am finding that “made in USA” can mean made here by Chinese, southeast Asian, or Mexican laborers who basically work in sweatshops on American soil. It’s not just clothing, most everything is imported now because people want cheap in this economy and companies know that. There’s no quick solution because most Americans and the rest of the world want cheap, just like how we’ve come to accept inferior produce and meats because mass production is plain cheaper. Just read the label on the average apple juice, it probably states that it can contain juice from several countries. But I digress…

  7. Steve Ayres

    I recently decided to try and remove as much chinese product from my life as I could. I noticed that almost all footwear is made in China these days, from Timberland boots to sneakers from every manufacturer.

    My New Balance 1500 ‘Limited Edition’ are made in China. The only ‘Made in the USA’ shoe from New Balance I could find locally is the 993, and the claim is questionable.

    There’s an interesting article about the FTC and New Balance here.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36476797/ns/business-us_business/

    There is one US company that I know of making custom sneakers. The Hershey Custom Shoe Company. Their products are in the $200-300 range, but for that you do get a custom made shoe built just for you.

    - Palm Springs, California

  8. Nathan Byrnes

    Thanks for this really thoughtful discussion. I just purchased a pair of NB 883 running shoes, with the assumption that they were made in the US. Thankfully, I was mostly correct in this case… I just checked and it says “Made in USA of imported and domestic materials.”

    These are $100 running shoes, providing anecdotal evidence that NB’s higher-end shoes are made in America.

    As for the name of the company, according to Wikipedia, “In 1906, William J. Riley, a 33 year old English immigrant, founded the New Balance Arch Support Company, which manufactured arch supports and other accessories designed to improve shoe fit, in Boston, Massachusetts.”

    - New Bedford, Massachusetts

  9. Brian

    After shopping today for a pair of domestically produced New Balance shoes and reviewing this article, I have an addition to these comments.

    New Balance now provides this article clarifying what component of which shoes is made domestically or assembled locally as per the above several distinctions. This was found at an FAQ under their outsourced Customer Support web pages. They do not address the concerns this blog’s author has stated previously for re-labeling by component, percentage, etc., so don’t complain to me about it.

    I witnessed at least 4 models offered at Kohl’s which featured the sticker “Made in USA of Imported Materials”. I suspect that these shoes are almost completely the product of foreign oppressed labor.
    Another explanation could be that a particular shoe model is removed from their FAQ statement of origin when it is retired from active production.

    The bottom line is Buyer Beware. Keep writing those letters to New Balance management.

    - Buffalo, New York

  10. James

    If you want shoes made in the USA you are going to have to support union labor. The profit ratio of shoes made here in America is a lot less that the one of those made in a country where they make 30 cents a day. Organized group barganing power to ensure a fair wage and changes in the law to force American companies to manufacture, at the least, 75% of domesticaly sold product here are the only ways to restore America’s manufacturing base. The Republicans are sure not going to pass any laws that restrict or instruct a buisness how to conduct its affairs or give any union any help, I doubt the Democrats have the b**** to do the first and therefore the latter does not matter.

    • Nancy Smith

      You can blame Clinton and the other crooked Democrats for sending all our jobs overseas and out of the country. They passed the NAFTA and it was downhill after that. All the clothing jobs here in TN were lost within months after Clinton pushed the NAFTA. Part of the Clinton legacy was to lose all those good paying American and UAW jobs!

      (Retired UAW member)

      • Daniel Murray

        Uh, sorry but it was George H.W Bush (Sr.) that concieved [sic] and pushed NAFTA, NOT Clinton.

        The republicans were ALL for NAFTA and were it’s driving force. Only H. Ross Perot had the balls to say it was bunk, and everyone (including the conservatives and republicans) called him crazy.

        Oh, and by the way…China isn’t part of NAFTA!
        Bush Sr. had the chance smack down China after Tiananmen Sq, but he backed off because it would have hurt his big business republican buddies.

        You want to blame someone for the loss of US manufacturing?.. Blame “multinational” businesses and libertarian idiots who believe that it’s better to have people working at a non-union Wal-Mart than a union shoe factory.

        - Boston Massachusetts

        Comment by RoutingByRumor…

        …and since H. Ross Perot first contributed it to the American Lexicon in the 1992 presidential debate, that “Giant Sucking Sound” has only gotten louder and louder.

  11. Richard Ptacek

    I just purchased two pair of New Balance shoes. Both pair have a lable that says ” Made In China”.

    I am now looking for shoes made in The United States.

    - Victoria, Kansas

  12. Brenda Stricklin

    I was googling to see if I could find some shoes made in USA when I tripped over this webiste.

    I must say, its been a quite interesting read. Would be wonderful if the owner would start a factory, he’d get rich on many of us!

    My othro doc told me to only wear NB, Niki or Clarks. Said they were all made in USA. Well, I bought my first pair of NB’s a few weeks ago, taking his suggestion. He was pleased when I went back wearing NB. He cut me loose. Then the other day, I looked at the label….made in CHINA. I felt like making another appointment with him, paying for that appt, just to show him my d#*n NB’S are made in China!

    I looked at a pair of Niki’s I have.. Yep, made in China.

    I haven’t checked Clark’s out yet, but 10 to 1, they are made in China too.

    My Crocks say made in Mexico on the bottom.

    I just want to know where can I find shoes made in USA????

    Maybe you need to get with someone on 20/20, and get them to do a segment on NB shoes, and see if they will go to a factory and watch them being assembled here. That would be quite interesting. You seem to be very smart, and I’m not meaning that in a smart a$$ way. You are intelligent enough to figure out who is sending mail. And you can check, I’m just a redneck girl down here in Mobile AL.

    I commend you on this website though. I’m sure many like me looking for shoes made in USA will also trip over this website, and it’ll open their eyes too. They’ll go looking at their NB shoes and say “oh chit”.

    Now, when you going to start making shoes for us? Lol. If you do, I’ll buy that first pair.

    - Mobile, Alabama

    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    She ain’t no redneck girl. She is just a smart consumer and patriotic American, who sounds about as disgusted with the Chinese-made goods that are flooding into our country, as we are.

    As for 20/20 (the TV news magazine) doing a piece on New Balance, how about 20/20 (or any news media) doing a story on what imported products have done to the U.S. economy ! The media prints and broadcasts stories every day about the end result of the uncontrolled flood of cheap imported goods (unemployment, foreclosures, plant closings, bankruptcies, bank failures, Detriot & Wall Street bailouts, etc.), but you don’t see a whole lot of reporting about what is responsible for destroying our nation’s economy.

  13. Frank Cornelius

    I can confirm that I do work at NB. Want some quick but accurate numbers? 1600 USA employees, producing 2.2 million prs of “Made in USA” shoes, 5.5 million prs of “Assembled in USA” shoes. This ~8 million pr represents 25% of worldwide production. As stated by our CEO today on foxbusiness.com, nearly all of the soles are imported due to the lack of US sole manufacturers. 800,000 soles are in fact made in our Boston factory/yr. As for FTC rules, we did’nt write them, we just follow them. The 70% rule is based on domestic dollar value by the way (not volume or weight).

    - Lowell, Massachusetts

    Response from Routing By Rumor…

    Hmmm…
    The previous comment (by “jmoney”) was left by someone at a New Balance IP address who (at least initially) did not mention that they were a New Balance employee. This comment (by Frank Cornelius) was left by someone who says they’re an employee, but was using a comcast.net IP address that is not associated with New Balance. But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume they were surfing the Web from home. We did find a linkedin.com page for Mr. Cornelius that says he is an Assistant Manager at New Balance.

    In the Foxbusiness.com interview that Mr. Cornelius mentions, New Balance CEO Robert DeMartini states that they have 1300 employees in their U.S. factories. While we don’t know if all of those are full-time employees, that is, nonetheless, great news. Mr. DeMartini also hinted that as the cost of manufacturing their products in China increases, there is at least the possibility that more of their manufacturing will be done in their U.S. factories. Again, great news, if they can do that.

    If you go by the numbers Mr. Cornelius provides, they would seem to indicate that roughly 6% of New Balance’s products are “Made In USA”. According to FTC guidelines, an unqualified “Made In USA” claim indicates that “the product must be “all or virtually all” made in the U.S.“. Now, 6% is better than nothing, but it’s still a relatively small percentage, and we suspect, represents only those products at the high end of New Balance’s price range. On the other hand, in the Fox interview, Mr. DeMartini pointed out that competitors such as Nike produce none of their shoes in the United States. So, when compared to 0%, we guess 6% ain’t so bad.

    Again using FTC guidelines, even a qualified claim of “Made In USA of U.S. and Foreign Components” would be considered deceptive if the value of the U.S.-made parts is negligible compared to the value of all the parts. Even a claim of “Made in USA of Foreign Components” requires that the manufacturing done here represents significant work and constitutes a “substantial transformation” (a term used by the U.S. Customs Service).

    An interesting conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from the figures that Mr. Cornelius provides is this… If New Balance makes just 800,000 soles a year in the USA (enough for 400,000 pairs of shoes), and they produce 2.2 million pairs of shoes which they consider “Made In USA” each year in their U.S. factories, it would seem to indicate that 1.8 million pairs (82%) of their “Made In USA” shoes are produced using imported soles. We wonder how New Balance would be able to label these shoes as “Made In USA”. After all, aren’t the soles of athletic shoes the single most costly component in the product? Now, recall the FTC’s guidelines, which state that in order to be labeled as “Made In USA”, the product must be “all or virtually all” made in the United States. Do a pair of shoes made in the United States using foreign-made soles fit that definition? We would think that under the FTC guidelines, those shoes would have to be labeled as “Assembled in USA of U.S. and Foreign Components”, or something to that effect, rather than as “Made In USA”.

    As an aside, we’re having fish for dinner tonight… fillet of sole. Ironic, huh ?

    Also, using Mr. Cornelius’ numbers, another 15% or so (5.5 million pairs) of their annual shoe production is considered “Assembled In USA”. According to FTC guidelines, a product that includes foreign components may be labeled as “Assembled in USA” without qualification when “its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial“. However, the FTC states that an “Assembled in USA” claim without further qualification is deceptive when only a simple “screwdriver” type assembly is performed in the USA. (We would guess that in the case of shoe manufacturing, doing things such as adding laces and labels, stickers or tags, and/or slipping insoles and those balls of wadded up tissue paper into shoes might be analogous to what the FTC terms “screwdriver” assembly of other types of goods.) We have no way of knowing if 100% of the assembly occurs in their U.S. factories. Are ALL sewing, gluing, and other construction steps performed in U.S. factories ? Or are their shoes’ completed uppers and soles shipped from their overseas plants, and just glued together here ? Because of things like their “Made In USA” stickers that are affixed to the more permanently attached size labels (as we’ve already pointed out), we’re skeptical. In any case, an “Assembled in USA” claim might mean that 100% of the components in a product were imported, or that the U.S. content, if any, is negligible.

    You can’t blame a manufacturer if competitive pressures force them to move the most labor-intensive steps in their manufacturing process to countries with lower labor costs, even if doing so is detrimental to the U.S. economy. But letting the consumer know exactly where their money is going is critical, if the U.S. economy is to ever recover.

    # # #

    Here’s the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for product claims such as “Made In USA” and “Assembled In USA”.

    And here’s the Robert DeMartini “Made In USA” FoxBusiness interview posted on youtube.

    And here are two Robert DeMartini interviews (including the one listed above), posted on foxbusiness.com…

    - New Balance CEO On Made-In-The-USA

    - New Balance CEO On Manufacturing

    Another aside… 1,300 manufacturing employees producing or assembling 7.7 million pairs of shoes per year breaks down to roughly 6,000 pairs per employee per year. Even Santa’s Elves would be jealous !

  14. jmoney

    You may have seen this already, but I thought it was topical….New Balance has recently put out a video that was filmed in one of their US factories and had interviews with their American workers. I guess they really do make shoes in the US!

    Response from Routing By Rumor…

    Below is the server log for the visitor who left the above helpful comment. It simply confirms our suspicions that New Balance is less than honest with the public. Rather than identify themselves as an employee of New Balance, or use their e-mail address at newbalance.com, they used a non-descript address at gmail.com when leaving their comment. We consider that to be a pretty incompetent attempt at deception.

    Considering that they work at New Balance (based on the gmail address they used, and after doing a few searches, we were able to associate their gmail addresses with an individual at New Balance who is a “Global Advertising & Interactive Marketing Specialist”), it seems unlikely to us that they would have to “guess” (their words) where New Balance really makes their shoes. We’ll file their helpful comment under “damage control” and “public relations attempt”, and leave it up to our readers to interpret their motivation. This is the second time that someone at New Balance has left what we consider to be a misleading and deceptive comment on this article.

    It is telling, that rather than trying to refute our assumptions about New Balance’s foreign manufacturing, and rather than providing any hard figures to back up their claims of making their shoes in America, they chose to leave the anonymous comment that they did. Referring to New Balance in the third person, and saying “they” instead of “we” was clearly intended to give the impression that the person leaving the comment was not associated with New Balance. Of course, people posting comments and articles on the Internet supporting or being critical of an organization, but not being honest about their affiliation, is nothing new. Caveat emptor, or more appropriately, caveat lector (let the reader beware).

    We once again call upon New Balance, as well as all other companies that claim to manufacture their products in the U.S.A., to publish the details of their manufacturing activity. We would like to see numbers of units imported vs. numbers of units domestically manufactured, the dollar value of their imported goods vs. the value added by American workers, and the percentage of each products value (on a dollar basis) associated with each country involved in the manufacture of that product. We think this should be the law. When we last shopped for an automobile, we were able to see the country of origin and the percentage of the vehicle’s total value, of the major components in the vehicle (engine, transmission, etc). We think all consumer goods should have to list similar info, such as “Country of Origin: China – 80%, USA – 15%, Other – 5%”). This would open American consumer’s eyes to what phrases like “Assembled In USA”, “Made In USA Using Foreign Materials”, and even “Made In USA” really mean.

    For our Internet-savvy readers… A traceroute to our visitor’s IP address confirms the host name shown below, and even identifies their bandwidth provider as sprintlink.net.

    ###
    Number of Entries: 2
    Entry Page Time: 17th June 2009 17:23:41
    Visit Length: 8 mins 17 secs
    Browser: Chrome 0.2
    OS: Windows XP
    Resolution: unknown
    Returning Visits: 0
    Location: Allston Massachusetts United States
    Hostname: outgoing.newbalance.com (63.166.109.66)
    Entry Page: routingbyrumor.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/new-balance-shoes-made-in-usa-yeah-right/
    Exit Page: routingbyrumor.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/new-balance-shoes-made-in-usa-yeah-right/#comment-2066
    Referring URL: No referring link

    (The time listed in our visitor log (provided by statcounter.com) is Eastern Daylight Savings Time.)
    ###

    So, should readers trust the statements made by bloggers, or those who post comments to blogs ? It is a growing problem that the United States Federal Trade Commission has been looking at (see this Associated Press article).

    The FTC is currently drafting rules that will regulate bloggers who endorse, review, or otherwise post articles about a company or their products, and who receive remuneration for their posts from the company involved. It will require that bloggers disclose the fact that they were compensated for their posts.

    Although more difficult to enforce, we believe that the FTC should also regulate companies who post comments favorable to them (or critical of a competitor) to blogs or other websites, either by their employees, or by other individuals or companies who are compensated to post favorable comments online without disclosing the fact that they were remunerated for their posts.

    Back to the case of the individual at New Balance who posted a comment about New Balance to this article without disclosing that they are a company employee… The person involved contacted us as soon as we unmasked their affiliation with the company, and they were incredibly apologetic. While they assured us that they did not post the comment at the direction of their employer, in our mind, it makes little difference. The fact that they are an employee (not to mention that their job responsibilities involve advertising and marketing), means that they should disclose their affiliation when posting comments online. We believe that companies must be held accountable for such actions by employees, advertising agencies, and anyone else that has a business relationship with them. As things stand now, there is no government-mandated disclosure requirement. Hopefully, the proposed FTC rules will be a giant step in that direction, and companies will be compelled to develop a “code of online conduct”, if they don’t already have one, which addresses the ethical and regulatory aspects of what they post online.

    The Internet is arguably the most powerful tool available to consumers when researching a company and it’s products. Without knowing a blogger’s or commentor’s affiliation or motivation for posting comments about a company or product, you have to take everything you read with a very large grain of salt. As we advised previously, “Caveat Lector” (let the reader beware).

    After all, it’s still the Wild, Wild, Web !

  15. Jeffrey Falkingham

    Most of their running shoes are made in Maine and in Massachusetts. The RAW materials are imported, but not all of them. They cut, die [sic], assemble, inspect, package and ship here. The problem is, not all of the raw materials are made here. So they get what they can from here and import the rest. Whether you agree with it or not, its still a better option than buying the $30 pair at the mall.

    FWIW, I am completely with you. I want more made here and I’ll pay for it. If I can’t afford it, well, I guess I won’t get it. Having products from China that as so cheap, it has killed our great nation from producing to solely consuming. It’s sad.

    - Epping, New Hampshire

    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    Anecdotal evidence, including our own experience when shopping for shoes and diligently checking the tags in New Balance and other brands of shoes leads us to the (admittedly unscientific) conclusion that for many years now, the majority of New Balance shoes have been labeled unconditionally as “Made In China”. A small percentage state that they are “assembled” here, and we believe a very small number of their high-end shoes carry an unconditional claim of “Made In USA”.

    It is also important to keep in mind that under current FTC rules, even products that are assembled mostly outside the U.S. can be labeled as “Made In USA”, if a sufficient portion of the product’s final value is added in U.S. factories. Because of the huge differential between U.S. wages and those in places like China, we suspect that products can be imported in virtually finished condition, and still qualify for the “Made In USA” or “Assembled In USA” designation.

    If your comment is true, it would be welcome news. Can you provide a source for the claim that “most” of their shoes (we guess that means at least half) are made in the U.S.? And could you (or any of our readers) quantify the percentage of New Balance products assembled fully or partly in U.S. factories, or point us towards a source of such statistics? Understandably, we’ve never seen any numbers published by New Balance regarding this subject.

    As far as cheap products from China killing our great nation, we couldn’t agree with you more. We believe that (and we’ve blogged on this subject) our current economic depression / deep recession (or whatever label you wish to affix to the state of our “Walmart” economy) is largely a result of sending our manufacturing jobs to wherever labor is cheapest, which usually means China.

    • Douglas W. Smith

      New Balance model 993 is made in USA. It replaces 992 with a price increase.

      Danner shoes are made in USA for the leather boots.

      Red Wing makes some of their shoes and boots in USA.

      Dig a little and be aware. Search made in USA clothing and you will be surprised there are some factories still in business.

      - Springfield, Virginia

  16. Angela

    This article made me very curious so I checked the tag inside my New Balance sneakers. Low and behold, it says “Made in China”.

    - Little Rock, Arkansas

  17. Trevor

    The symbol on the box that you are referring to is the Japanese symbol for recycled/recyclable material.

    - Reno, Nevada

  18. Pierre Bolduc

    This is a very interesting topic and we are all concern about the invasion of asian products in America. But, i have to tell you to go back to look at a map. Your comments saying “Upon opening the box, I find a hang tag attached to one of the shoes that proclaims that New Balance is “Committed to American Workers”. Really? Almost hilariously, it also says “Solidaire des Travailleurs Americains”. I thought we speak English in America. ” show you are narrow-minded! America is not USA, North-America is USA, Canada, Mexico and South America is Brazil, Argentina… America is all the above. In Canada we are 7M people speaking French and by the way one of the New Balance Factory is in Skowhegan, 2 hours from my home!!! Don’t be narrow minded, we are 7m people who prefers to buy made in north-america than made in asia.

    Bye


    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    Bonjour, Pierre !

    True, but we will point out that while there are 7 million French-speaking Canadians, they represent less than a quarter of the 33 million citizens of Canada. We know that the French vs English subject is a very emotional issue for many Canadians. But really, this article isn’t about the languages spoken in your country. It’s about a manufacturer who seems to have moved the vast majority of their manufacturing to China, and who, in our opinion, tries to sugar-coat this fact by proclaiming their support for the American worker. And yes, a few factories here (whichever side of the border they’re on) are better than none. We would be interested though, in seeing what percentage of New Balance’s production is done in North America. Our gut tells us it’s a very, very small number.

    Regarding our use of the terms “America” and “Americans”, we will concede that you are absolutely correct. Geographically, America stretches from Canada in the North to Argentina and Chile in the South. But it is also our opinion that most people here in the U.S.A. use the terms “America” and “Americans” to refer to the United States and it’s citizens. It’s certainly a U.S.-centric view of the world, but that’s what we believe is the popular point of view here. To most of us, “America” and “United States of America” are used interchangeably, and mean the same thing.

    And it’s probably not just us. If you look at say, Middle East politics, and consider the use of the term “anti-American sentiment”, we don’t think they’re talking about their distaste for citizens of Mexico, Costa-Rica or Venezuela, as much as they are referring to the United States. If you see protesters in Iran with signs that say “DEATH TO AMERICA”, we think it’s unlikely that they mean to include citizens of Peru or Guatemala in their message of hate.

    We also think that most Americans….err…. I mean most U.S. citizens, make little distinction between products made here or in Canada. The cordial, longstanding nature of our relationship with Canada (until recently, you didn’t even need a passport to cross the border), the proximity of our two countries, and for the most part, a common language, makes most of us blind to the border. Also, the fact that our economies are so similar means that we do not view products made in Canada as a threat to workers here. It’s probably similar to the view of Europeans with regard to other members of the European Union.

    Au Revoir, Mon Ami !
    (and I thought I’d never get to use the French they made me learn in High School.)

  19. Memo

    Can someone please tell me where to find shoes that are made in the U.S.A? I am done buying products made in countries such as China. It’s time for all of us to stop contributing to the economy of communist countries, the enemies of America.

  20. Jonathan

    I can guarantee you that NB shoes not made in china are actually made in the usa. Foreign materials means just that. The raw materials are imported, but are cut, assembled, and sewn, in the United States. And that’s the shoes that are made of mostly imported material. Some, like the 992s, say “made in usa” without a qualifier. The minimum US content in these shoes is 70%. Naturally, they are a bit pricier than other New Balance shoe lines, but imo, they are worth it. I can understand your concern, but in the case of New Balance shoes that are not of the imported variety, it is misplaced. The label is genuine. Do a little research, and you’ll see for yourself.


    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    The following statement is taken directly from the tag that New Balance includes with their shoes, and we quote: “Where the domestic value is at least 70%, we have labeled the shoes “Made in U.S.A.”. Where it falls below 70%, we have qualified the label referencing domestic and imported materials.“. The New Balance CM473′s in our article were labeled as the latter, and New Balance is not telling us whether they contain 69% domestic value, or .00001% domestic value. The fact of the matter is that we don’t think there is any standard to be met. In our mind, that makes the “Made In USA” portion of their “Made In USA of Imported Materials” claim, a worthless and potentially misleading statement.

    We never questioned whether New Balance shoes labeled with an unqualified “Made In USA” are actually made here. We have no reason to question the pedigree of that small percentage of their shoes labeled as “Made In USA”. But even this might be a leap of faith. In this 1996 FTC filing, New Balance asked the FTC to consider applying a standard of “greater than 50% domestic content”, to allow a product to be labeled with an unqualified claim of “Made In USA”. At the time, the FTC had an “all, or virtually all” domestic content standard for products labeled as “Made In USA”. It is also worthwhile to note that this was in response to a complaint that the Federal Trade Commission filed against New Balance as a result of their labeling practices. We attempted to locate the FTC’s complaint against New Balance, but apparently, their website archive does not go that far back. We did, however, find this FTC complaint against New Balance, alleging price fixing, and this consent agreement, in which New Balance agrees to stop misrepresenting the origin of their shoes. If you take the time to read the consent order, it indicates that the FTC had alleged that New Balance was claiming that footwear “made wholly abroad” was made in the United States. As is usually the case with consent orders, the company made no admission of guilt, but simply agreed to cease and desist in the future.

    To our knowledge, N.B. has never actually stated where the components for their shoes labeled “Made In USA of Imported Materials” come from, but you seem to agree with our conjecture that it is indeed China. And even if the 70% domestic standard is applied, is that 70% by weight, 70% by volume, 70% by dollar value, or some other measure? If it is 70% by dollar value, then it’s quite likely that the huge disparity between labor costs in U.S. and China might mean that 95% of the physical product is assembled in China. Let’s be honest about it… It’s not that China (or any other country) has better nylon, polyester, rubber, thread or glue than we do in the U.S., it’s the availability of cheap labor. It makes sense to us that they would want to assemble their products to the greatest extent possible, outside the U.S. Why else would they affix a size label to the shoe which does not show the country of origin, only to add a sticker later on, which says “Made In USA of Imported Materials”. We think the answer is that attaching the size label to the shoes in this country (it is apparently done with a heat-activated glue or ironed on) would simply take too much expensive American labor. It’s much cheaper to do it in China, and then have an American factory simply add a sticker later on. If, as “Jonathan” claims, “The raw materials are imported, but are cut, assembled, and sewn, in the United States“, why would New Balance elect to print a size label that omits the country of origin, affix it to the shoes, and then add a sticker that says “Made In USA of Imported Materials”? It just flies in the face of common sense.

    To the legal scholars here at RoutingByRumor, this is prima facie evidence that New Balance is assembling the shoes to the greatest extent possible, overseas.

    Of course, maybe we’re all wrong about this. It would be nice if New Balance was willing to disclose exactly what parts of their finished products are being made overseas. In the absence of this sort of disclosure, the cynical consumer in us assumes the worst.

  21. My (New Balance) 576es are “Made in USA of Imported Materials” in French and English too. I wondered whether one of the “materials” is the entire sole, constituting 29% of the shoe. One reason–and I have no substantiation on this, I’m just positing it from other information–for outsourcing the soles might be US environmental laws that make it far too dangerous for Americans to handle such hazardous materials, but perfectly rational, both environmentally and morally, for people in other countries. But of course I cannot say with any certainty that New Balance would do such a thing. They have the gig rigged to make it almost impossible to be certain of anything at all. That’s the worst of it. We can’t even know whether we’re being lied to.

  22. surlyduff

    While looking online for shoes that are made in the US, I came across this post. I just have a couple of reactions:

    I agree you should be skeptical. After all, the rules for being able to say something is “Made in USA” are ludicrous.
    In fact, that label can be used if something is manufactured in any of the Protectorates and Territories of the United States and not merely in the States (plus DC) themselves. Many of these Territories are exempt from US safety and labor standards. I can’t think of which ones are exempt off hand, though.

    But I think you’re making too much of the French on the labeling.
    Product standards and consumer tastes are very similar in the United States and Canada. So it is far cheaper for companies to produce products sold in both countries in single batches that will go to markets in both countries instead of separate batches for each. (At least that’s true in Northern US markets. I can’t speak for a pair of shoes sold in Texas, for example.)
    Now Canada has very strict laws that state that all signage and labeling must be in both French and English. (Although I know a few Canadians who complain that French-speaking Quebec seems immune to these laws.)
    So NB, like many other companies, simply complies with the Canadian law when printing labels for products that could be shipped to either country.
    (This also aids flexibility. If sales tank in the States but explode North of the border, they can re-direct product to where demand is higher without having to print up a whole bunch of new labels.)

    Good post, though.

    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    “Surlyduff” raises some valid points, but imports from American protectorates and territories are a miniscule part of the problem. We believe a much larger part of the problem is manufacturers who can import virtually complete or substantially complete goods into the United States from places like China, and then tag them as “Made In USA”. There is no clearly defined legal standard for what the claim actually means.

    Regarding bi-lingual product labeling, it is still relatively rare for goods manufactured in the United States and sold in America to be labeled in another language. We were poking fun at New Balance’s supposed pro-American stance, telling the world that they are concerned about American workers, but doing it in a language other than English. We see a lot of irony, not to mention hipocracy in the practice.

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