Guest post from Bryan Hurley, owner of Americraft Cookware
It was sometime in the late 90’s that I recall having a conversation with a biology major about cattails. While I’m sure I probably went to a bar named Cat-Tails during the same era, the cattails I’m referring to are those long, slender, green, aquatic weeds that seem to be the prevalent species in lakes and swamps. The scientific name for these lean greens is Typha. As I recall, a group of us were standing around a lake and I mentioned that despite all the talk about the bad health conditions of the local environment, at least the cattails are growing well and that must be a good sign, right? Wrong. My biology buddy informed me that cattails in any body of water can be ok, to an extent, but they can also represent that the end is near.
As it turns out, cattails are able to survive when other, more indigenous species, cannot. They can ruin a once healthy aquatic area very quickly. The cycle goes something like this — a generation of the plant grows, dies, falls, rots and then finally sinks only to be covered up by growth of the next generation of cattails. Suddenly a pond that was once very wide and deep is slowly filled up by a plant that can’t live in more than 5 or 6 feet of water, yet finds new places to thrive as it grows on top of its dead grand-plants’ corpses! Now, before any real biologists come after me with pitchforks spewing facts, I want to be clear, I barely passed biology and do not pretend to have advanced knowledge of all things aquatic. I’m simply putting the cycle in as simple terms as I can.
With my biology deficiencies identified, I find myself wondering if I will be recognized for identifying a non-biological, yet new invasive species? Pupa villas Seres copia, better known by its common name “Cheap Chinese Dollar Store.” I believe this cattail-like cycle is taking place in the American economic pond but the cattails are the seemingly endless new arrivals of cheap Chinese dollar stores. Next time you’re surfing the web and you’re looking for something new to research, go to any online mapping program like Google Earth or Map Quest and zoom out to view the entire nation. Then, search for “Dollar Store,” “Family Dollar,” “Dollar General,” or any other cheap discount-type store. If the thousands of dots that cover nearly the entire map don’t seem like an invasion to you, then you should clear that search and type in the word factory to see what’s left of a good economic sign.
In a recent ABC interview with the CEO of Dollar Store Inc., it was revealed this one chain has more than 7500 stores and is opening new stores at a rate of 1 per day. There are now more dollar stores in America than there are drug stores. The story went on to say that 3 of the dollar chains are Fortune 500 companies and more than 1/3 of the products in these stores are foreign made. It also mentioned that a lot of these stores are opened in areas that higher-end stores cannot survive and they are often built in older buildings that used to house other stores, aka Mom and Pop shop corpses. Sound familiar?
I’m often asked why I don’t push to get my products in Big Box retailers and my answer is always the same:
- Consumers have to be educated to the value of our product otherwise it looks just like the cheap Chinese stainless steel pan sitting on the shelf next to it.
- I refuse to participate in the quest to cheapen everything with no regard to the long-term effect. There are several shortcuts I could take to decrease the cost of my cookware including using foreign metal, lesser quality components, etc. If I really wanted to make it competitive, I could use foreign labor in a nasty foreign factory.
While the buyers at the big-box stores are profiting off cheap Chinese labor, it is slowly killing the consumers that are supporting their “success.” What do you suppose would happen if I replaced 40 factory workers with foreign labor? For starters, my profit would increase by 45% or more. While I’m out enjoying my newly found wealth, my suddenly unemployed workers will no longer shop with a “value” or “quality” conscious mindset. In fact, they won’t even be able to afford Wal-Mart. Their only option will be cheap “deals” they can get at the discount store. Thank goodness there are plenty for those 40 people to choose from! Crisis averted! There’s a long line at the Dollar Store! Economy looks good, right? What’s the problem? Everybody can just get a job at the Dollar Store right? What do you mean they only average 2 employees at marginal wages per store? What about my other 38?
You see in this example, we have 2 types of people — the factory owner and the former factory worker. The factory owner is spending his profits at one of only 250 William-Sonoma stores across America. The former factory worker is barely making ends meet, even by shopping at the discount store. The fact that we only seem to have high-end stores and discount stores left in this country is proof that the middle class is not only under attack, but soon to be extinct unless we have a dramatic shift in our buying thought process. It is my opinion that this is the worst possible scenario for our country and I will not participate.
The potential profit I could make offshore is as tempting as cookies are to my kids, but it comes at a price that hurts others. I want my kids, and grandkids, to be able to go fishing without having to fight to find water on the other side of the cattails. I also want them, and their entire generations, to be able to find meaningful, prosperous jobs that do not include fighting for one of two piss-poor positions at the local dollar store. For this reason you will never see me, or any of my employees, in any store that sells “cheap.”