Is the retail ballgame played on a level field?

Published on: 2015-02-05

The Retail Design Divas ponder:

Many products sitting on retail shelves and hanging on racks today are sourced overseas. North American design firms are searching and winning creative opportunities offshore, as many retailers here are becoming increasingly conservative and companies are successfully joining up with international partners for the budgetary and talent pool advantages they offer. It appears that along with technology, retailing--and its supportive community--is one of the most global of all business activities.

So what is politically, ethically and economically the right thing to do?

Our take:

This is obviously a politically-charged question that doesn't (yet) have an obviously right answer... and it may never. From an economic standpoint, one might argue that what's best for the big corporations that continue to employ millions of Americans  is best for the American people. Likewise, plentiful access to cheap goods and labor have granted the current generation of Americans heretofore unseen levels of personal wealth. From a different perspective, if the profits from US corporations aren't helping the US economy, why should the US government allow them a loophole that siphons off billions of dollars in taxes and encourages these companies to expand more of their operations overseas?

We've not yet seen much impact in stores that primarily sell goods manufactured overseas, aside from a dip in sales during the period when all of those lead-painted toys were shipping out of China.  Should the current economic downturn in the US continue, will shoppers decide to vote with their wallets and support a more isolationist policy, or will they simply try to stretch their dollars as far as possible by buying the lowest-cost goods.  It seems to us that like our love of credit, this might be a buy now, pay later type of affair.

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