Price-minimized, zero-margin, off-the-shelf crap for big box stores are a different story. Then they can trade on their brand equity built with embroidered logo bags and sell trash to the mass market.
- turn-around for custom goods from China is not 6-weeks. It took a solid 2 weeks to get the bag, which is what I would expect. The cost to ship expedited versus the labour cost is a wash, especially considering they stil had to post the bag to me anyways.
- The goods in-store are still marketed as premium goods; to use an HN appropriate analogy, this is like me telling you that your Mac is crap because you bought from a 3rd party retailer. For reference, this was $150 for a laptop messenger bag. Not a ton of money, but not cheap considering there's no leather, etc involved.
- If you look at the store I mentioned, they're not really big-box. They're in some awkward in-between yuppie place where everything is greenwashed. I still shop there, but I'm pretty disenchanted since this incident.
- This event has, in my mind, destroyed whatever brand recognition they had. The product is alright, but I'd rather support a company that does everything in NA.
The point being, the market're selling into would be more than willing to absorb the cost of local production. I suspect at a point during their growth they were unable to afford to scale up locally, and decided to contract volume manufacturing for the channel. Now that they're well established, I would hope that they would perform an exercise like the one in this article, and see if moving production back makes sense.
(This is actually mentioned in the article)
My point was, the cost of shipping by air versus hiring an American worker is probably a wash. I suspect they do their custom work in SF because it's a token gesture. Sort of local-washing, versus green-washing.