Monday, May 23, 2005

China vs USA - is price the most important thing?

I started off this project with a dream to make a guitar case that matched the magic of great guitars - and part of that magic for me is that guitars are a powerful symbol of American culture. So I wanted the cases to be made in the US (and the UK too as that is another great home of guitars).

But when I began talking with people in the music instrument business they all said - 'you must have them made in China - you can't compete on price if you don't.' Well I was new to the business so I listened and I did some research - and sure I could have them made in China - but it somehow won't be the same thing for me. Goods in China made by people who are earning 20c and hour and have no chance of every owing what they are making just makes me feel uneasy.

I want to sell fine cases made by people paid a wage that would mean they could buy one if they so chose. And I want them made by people who will have some connection with the thing they are making. Everyone in the US and the UK is familiar with and to some degree a part of the rock n roll guitar culture thing - I find it hard to believe workers in China would have any connection at all to an ultra modern guitar case.

Also I wanted to create employment for people in the West - I am tired of seeing that pretty well every damn thing I buy is made offshore - I have a stubborn urge to buck that trend.

So if I do make the Calder cases in the US and the UK the price is going to be higher - just like US made guitars. The big question for me is will people pay the extra? And does anyone these days really care where things are made - or is everyone just price driven? Any thoughts about this?

Here's an interesting bunch of comments
from people who watched a US show about WalMart (which buys almost everything from China).

categories: early development

Calder blog homepage
Calder website homepage


Anonymous Will (french musician and journalist) said...

This guitar case is a great and nice project.
It's a very good thing to think of the matter of price / employement / whay of making as you do when everybody seams today only think about "how can I earn more money ?"
The point is whe don't know how different prices will be with the different ways.

One point is that your case, with is particular original look will be a trendy exclusive product. If you sell it at a too low price, just a little more expensive thant ordinariy cases, people will ask semself "what's wrong ? Isn't done shit to be so cheap ?"
So, any way you have it manufactured, you'll have to sell it more expensive than ordinary cases.
Because you've a good social conscience, I think you should have it made in UK or US.
People will have more confidence in it's quality and reliability if it's made in UK or in US than in China.

In addition, I've heard from people who make business with chineese manufacturers that, for small or medium quantity, it's easy to find low prices, but more difficult to find good making.
I think you wont sale a very large amount of this case in relation to volumes usualy made in China. Not because it's not good, but because it's special. So I definively think that the best choice is UK ou US.

10:11 AM  
Blogger hbhanoo said...

To respond to your question of 'will people pay for something made in the US or UK?'

IMHO, You will find a few people that will pay strictly for the 'Made in ' label. But you'll find many more people who'll pay for the attention to detail or the quality, or the finish.

A friend of mine used to (I think he still may) get functional art custom-made from India. Although he went to great lengths to help the workers in India understand western concepts of 'finished product' (including taking many digital photos and videos of the manufacturing process) he found that the pieces were poorly finished.

A large part of this is due, as you correctly allude to in your post, to a cultural disconnect between the people making the items and the people whom the items were being made for.

My friend was able to get the high quality items he needed at a price that was lower than what he could've gotten in the US. But it definitely required a significant investment on his part. Not financial, but in the time taken to bridge the cultural gap, and build the right relationships with vendors in India.

If you're building guitar cases because that is your passion, I'm sure you'll get much more personal satisfaction by doing so in the US.

If you're also looking at making a long term business out of it; it may be still be worth exploring the China option, but realize that it will be a relationship that you have to work at.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Nick Comer-Calder said...

I greatly appreciate you guys taking the time to comment and I like the thoughfulness of what you write - so my gratitude for that.

Will, my research indicates that you are right about needing make in high volumes in China to get anywhere near a good deal.

hbhanoo again I like the points you make about the time needed to cross the cultural bridge. At the moment I don't feel I have that time - but maybe in the future.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Ben7string said...

I'm much impressed by the possibilities of your new guitar case concept and wait with keen anticipation the development of your acoustic guitar range, that is if you plan to make a large size available for something as big as a J-200.

As for where to build, I don't know the relative costings but, from an ethical, economic and even political viewpoint, I believe that the take-over of the world's manufacturing that China has been engaged in for some time is a threat to the future of free trade and opportunity as we have known it to date.

Other than that, if I want a differnt, stylish case to take my three guitars on the road as a pro guitarist I want to know I'm supporting the people who are buying my CDs, MP3s and concert tickets, not some "post" communist plutocrat's 5 or 10 year plan for global dominance!

I look forward to seeing the CO case in my supplier's website.



2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I suggest you compromise on cost but not on workmanship by looking into manufactures in Northern Italy? In my experience, there are some world class manufactures that could meet your needs for producing an affordable product. They certainly have the injection molding, foam thermoforming and closure expertise.

Good luck, TB

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