Why Does Made In Canada Matter?

I always find myself thinking about Canada and our Country’s international reputation most around Canada Day. Suddenly surrounded by red and white you cannot help it. This is the time when Canadians are most patriotic. A sea of red and white swarm sporting events and is the fashion palette of choice for backyard grill parties. Those who own Canadian Flags put them up on their porches and balconies. Cars are often adorned too. But the rest of the year – meh – we are letting our country brand fly under the radar. Yet we go on vacation outside of Canada and once again are adorning ourselves again with our flag or at minimum putting Canada pins on back backs etc. WHY? Ask any traveler and they will quickly say – “people like Canadians”.

Canadian manufacturing companies that are selling globally already know that Made in Canada products have a reputation for quality, style and service. Yet here we are in Canada buying imports and thinking Made in Canada is not important. Or they think it is expensive. Now I am not knocking products made internationally. I love international companies and many brands that come from abroad. I am pondering why more imports are sold here in Canada than most made in Canada brands. Name any industry and that stat will ring true. OK – I will correct myself – we buy our own Maple Syrup and Honey for sure. BUT if we are not buying Made in Canada, or at least considering it, for any major purchase we’ve got a definite disconnect. Take a second right now and think about what you buy and whether there was a Made in Canada option. Was it a consideration? If you considered but didn’t buy what was the reason? Most of the time the answer is cost.

Now we are getting down to the Canadian Made brass tacks. What is the cost of buying an investment piece like a sofa that ends up being poorly made and falls apart in a few years? Most likely you are looking at sofas in in the $1500+ price range. Yet it doesn’t take long for an import to reach that price given shipping, duty and other related charges. So suddenly a sofa (Made Internationally) that would cost the equivalent of $900 CDN in a place like China is going to get priced at $1750 in a Canadian retail location. Are you paying for the quality fabric and manufacturing or the shipping charges?

Further complicating issues is the President to the South wanting to make significant changes to NAFTA and in doing so could change a program that has been running relatively smoothly for years. NAFTA has allowed many fantastic Canadian manufacturers to sell their products in the states where Made in Canada is immediately met with the knowledge Canadian Made usually represent quality. Further abroad Canadian made furniture is coveted and loved around the globe. As a design consultant I love Canadian furniture because so many of our manufacturers offer custom options. Which means I can give my clients a choice of fabric, colour and style options which allow them to have custom furniture in their home that they will never see in a big box store or at their Aunt Betty’s. I know that really appeals to my clients. I also know I can give my clients peace of mind because any concerns they may have will be addressed quickly and expediently in true kind Canadian style.

Let’s go back to the NAFTA discussion and why Canadians need to buy from Canadian based retailers and where possible Canadian based brands. Canadian stats are not easily found so here is an American stat that should get your attention; more than three-quarters of the furniture sold in the United States now is made in China. Safe assumption the same stat rings true for Canada.

I come from the fashion industry where Made in Canada was only possible for the higher end brands. Most of the time people say they want Made in Canada but when they find out the premium cost they go for the lower priced brand. In my opinion when you compare Made in Canada furniture options to many international brands it is priced competitively. But is offering “Made in Canada” a valuable selling point for Canadian businesses?

Melissa Aronczyk, associate professor at the school of communications and information at Rutgers University and author of Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity, says that the world’s view of Canada is a positive one, and those feelings tend to stick. In many parts of the world Made in Canada is highly coveted. David Soberman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management says the “Made in Canada” label works particularly well for products where Canada’s image is intrinsically linked to them, like ice wine, maple syrup or winter apparel, but he points out that when it comes to manufacturing, Canada is actually most well-known for planes, trains and automobiles. This “dependable, reliable” reputation of Canada could give businesses an advantage on the world stage, says Dr. Soberman.

“It would be a secondary consideration so that when two products are perceived as being very similar, ‘Made in Canada’ can create an advantage,” he says. (1)

I challenge you from this point forward when you are considering buying any major purchase that you really consider Made in Canada. In places like Japan, Hong Kong and Brazil people love to purchase Canadian Made products that they consider top of the line. Let’s all get onto the pro side of the Made in Canada equation and start buying our home-grown products. And consider custom – it is not anywhere near as expensive as many assume. You don’t want to wear the same dress as someone else at a party nor do you want the same sofa as your neighbor. By buying custom Made in Canada you can have exactly what you want and support the financial health of our Nation.


It works for Canada Goose, but how far can ‘made in Canada’ go?


Special to The Globe and Mail

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