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5 Keys to American-Made Holiday Shopping

Getting to the top of the gift-giving podium is as easy as spelling U.S.A. When those three letters follow "Made in," they instantly elevate your gift to the status of conversation piece.
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The gift-giving edge you may need this holiday.

The race to find holiday presents is underway, and there's both good news and bad news for the shoppers out there.

Let's start with the bad news: Gift giving is a competitive sport - a contact sport, if you watched any online videos of Black Friday bargain hunters. And while finding just the right thing is hard enough, there's also the pressure to outdo your 2012 performance. 'Tis the season, after all, for occasional bouts of panic.

But here's the good news: Getting to the top of the gift-giving podium is as easy as spelling U.S.A.

When those three letters follow "Made in," they instantly elevate your gift to the status of conversation piece. A simple shirt is transformed into a symbol of resilience. A simple toy becomes a statement about safe products. And a simple "thank you" becomes a conversation about American jobs and helping to put food on your fellow citizen's table.

But wait, you thought. Buying American ignores costs and the realities of a globalized economy. We don't make anything anymore.

Not so fast.

While it's hard to argue that American consumers face a shortage of Chinese imports, it isn't hard to argue that we face a shortage of jobs. So why not support more of them by purchasing from companies that make products here?

Doing so is easier than it seems. These days, shoppers have more Made in America options than they've had in years.

Toys? America has got you covered. Kitchenware? Lots of choices. Clothing? You bet. Electronics? Yes, we make those too.

From athletic footwear to flatscreen TVs, there are companies manufacturing in America today. And while you may expect to pay a premium for American-made quality, you'd be surprised at how easily those on tight budgets can find gifts at competitive prices.

So here's a personal challenge to consider this season: Give just one more Made in America gift than you had planned.

Here are five tips to help you achieve (and surpass) that goal.

1. Web searches are your friend. Typing in key phrases like "Made in America" or "Made in USA" along with the gift you are searching for can narrow the field for you. Plus, many online stores like REI and Nordstrom let you search by "made in America" too.

2. Consider a curated list as your starting point. There are plenty to choose from. And with even more out there catering to crowds from union workers and do-it-yourselfers to hipsters and fashionistas, odds are you'll find one to your liking.

3. Shop smartly at big box stores. Look in sections where you're more likely to have success than those where you aren't. For example: Plastic and rubber housewares, appliances, and perishables are better bets than buys in electronics and footwear.

4. Don't discount the big brands. Some of them have a number of American-made options. New Balance,Whirlpool, KitchenAid, American Apparel, The Container Store, Brooks Brothers, and Nanette Lepore are just a few across a range of price points and product categories.

5. Go local. If the bigger names don't appeal to you, consider purchasing your gift from a local artisan. Craft beer, artwork, food, jewelry, and wood toys are among the scores of options.

Bonus tip: Don't drive yourself crazy. Trying to buy exclusively Made in America gifts is virtually impossible. Just think about doing a little better this year than you may have done in the past. Start with just one more gift.

And lastly: We'd be remiss if we didn't remind you that giving American-made gifts can do something that Congress hasn't been able to do for a few years: Help bring manufacturing jobs back to the States. America lost roughly a third of its middle-income factory jobs in the 2000s; and only about one in 11 of them have been added back since the end of the Great Recession.

But if each of us purchased one additional American-made gift this year, that alone would support somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 to 200,000 new jobs. We'd be able to tell Congress: If we can do it, you can pass policies to support American manufacturing too.

Made in America gifts that give more smiles, more jobs, and richer conversations. That's how we'll be giving this holiday season. How about you?

Scott Paul, President, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Alex Bogusky, Creative Advisor, Made Movement, formerly co-chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky

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