A Manufacturer with an Edge What ‘Made in America’ Means to England Furniture

Despite a challenging economic environment, American manufacturers that stick to what they do best and maintain high standards have a distinct advantage over their domestic and foreign counterparts. England Furniture exemplifies such a company.

The furniture company formed in the 1960s by members of the England family in eastern Tennessee hasn’t strayed from its founding principles. Quality craftsmanship, the use of top quality materials, a highly responsive customer service department and an industry-leading record for delivering orders on time has set the company apart from competitors. While ownership of the company has changed hands since Dwight England, his father and brother created the company in 1964, England Furniture has withstood shifting fashion trends and economic uncertainties thanks to its consistent emphasis on satisfying customers.

Much has been made in recent decades about the United States losing its competitive edge in manufacturing. Lower cost overseas labor has allowed foreign manufacturers to undercut their domestic counterparts on price and win market share. This trend has contributed to the large U.S. trade gap with imports into our country outpacing exports, which many economists worry will become a permanent imbalance that drags down overall economic activity.

Revitalizing the U.S. manufacturing sector has become a rallying for politicians from all parties and President Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015. As the president put it in an address at a North Carolina community college: “We want to create and sell products all over the world that are stamped with three simple words: ‘Made in America’.”

The emphasis on helping American manufacturers appears to be paying off. Exports have been on the rise and the manufacturing sector has grown at a pace three times faster than the rest of the economy. A renewed sense of purpose has helped the U.S. economy emerge from recession and the country can take pride in its manufacturing capability, which has always been an engine powering economic activity. The United States remains the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods and out-produces China by more than 40%. In 2009, the U.S. economy created nearly $1.7 trillion in goods. Economist Ian Shepherdson of High-Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York, stated it bluntly in a Bloomberg article: “I don’t think there’s much wrong with the manufacturing sector.”

The credit belongs to companies including England Furniture that has quietly gone about their business serving customers and reinforcing their good reputations in the process. The continuing success of firms like England proves that demand for durable, high-quality goods backed by the guarantees of reliable manufacturers will prevail despite any challenges their competition presents.

The reasons for the continued successes are complex and multi-faceted. One notable source of strength is the ability of U.S. manufacturers to offer consumers more freedom of choice. “We offer choices that importers don’t” says Otis Sawyer, president, England Furniture. “We can pick out any fabric you want. We’re all about choices. America continues to love the ability to make choices about the products they purchase.”

Another reason behind strong U.S. manufacturers is their ability to meet consumer demand in a timely fashion. Overseas manufacturing often necessitates planning orders months in advance and eliminates the ability to respond to market fluctuations. It also creates bottlenecks, causing delays for the consumers awaiting delivery.

“At England Furniture, we deliver everything within 21 days in most of the country, 98% of the time,” notes Sawyer. “We manufacture 350,000 units each year and if any customer has a problem we have live customer service representatives who act as intermediaries with dealers to resolve the situation to our customers’ satisfaction.”