When a product is marked “Made in USA” that means it was all made in the USA.  Why would anyone question a statement so clear and simple? Well, like most things in life it isn’t that simple. In the trade show industry the vast majority of hardware components are made outside the US. To contrast, most printing happens inside the USA. However, there are many products available that are really Made in the US. For customers shopping around, let’s go behind the scenes of the trade show industry so you know exactly what you are buying! What does Made in USA really mean?

What does Made in USA really mean?

FTC Standard

The FTC lays out the legal standards regarding Made in USA claims on their page “Complying with the Made in USA Standard.” The Federal Trade Commission is assigned the task of preventing deception and unfairness in the marketplace. The FTC is granted power through the FTC Act to legally bring law enforcement actions against a company or individual who violates FTC rules. The entire purpose is to create a level playing field in the market place so customers can trust advertiser’s claims. When it comes to Made in US the FTC defines it and enforces non-compliance. In order to understand this topic, let’s dive into what the FTC says.

Qualified and Unqualified Made in USA Claims

The FTC breaks down the “Made in US” terminology into two different categories: qualified and unqualified. Below is a direct quote from the FTC on the standard for Qualified and Unqualified Claims:

Unqualified Claim: “For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or limits on the claim, the product must be “all or virtually all” made in the U.S. The term “United States,” as referred to in the Enforcement Policy Statement, includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and possessions.”

Qualified Claim: “A qualified Made in USA claim describes the extent, amount or type of a product’s domestic content or processing; it indicates that the product isn’t entirely of domestic origin.”

In simple terms, an unqualified claim relates to the most common siting of the Mad in US badge on products. However, a qualified claim must specify details about which parts and percentage of the product are made in the USA. This means that legally the Made in US label can appear on products that are not 100% USA made.

Made in USA Standard for Trade Show Displays

It is easy to get caught up in the many legal nuances related to this FTC definition. However, since we are talking trade show displays, let’s get right into what this means in the trade show industry and the products you purchase. Firstly, let’s establish the general make up of the trade show industry. The vast majority of affordably priced trade show displays include hardware that is mostly made outside of the USA and graphics that are printed in the USA. There are manufacturer’s and supplier’s who label these products “Made in USA”. They do this because the graphic is produced in the US, which is over 50% of the cost of the product. So in one aspect it meets the FTC criteria. However, the FTC also states that foreign materials must be far enough removed from production and not a critical component of the product.

A quick example: Let’s say we have a $500 retail priced trade show display backdrop with a printed graphic, frame, and a carrying bag. Of that cost, $150 is for the frame, $300 for the graphic, and $50 for the carrying bag. The frame and bag are entirely made overseas with overseas raw materials. The graphic raw material and production is 100% in the USA. Looking at this scenario, because the frame is a critical and essential component that creates the product, it is deceptive to label it Made in the US. However, this product could be advertised as “Printed in the USA” or “Made in USA graphic with Chinese made hardware”.

Is Made in USA important to you?

ecoSmart-4094 Backlit 20x20 Sustainable Island Display View 02When it comes down to it, it’s up to you to decide how much you care to research this when buying products. The FTC is a massive government organization that mostly relies on reports from consumers to find out if a company is properly advertising products. It is impossible for the FTC to track every company’s claims. It’s your responsibility to research products of country of origin is important in your buying decision. Many people choose to support US products to help bolster the local economy. Additionally, to encourage more USA manufacturing and production. Other’s are concerned about slave labor, child labor, and inhumane working conditions in other countries. Some companies exploit this situation to create low cost products in the US. The first step is to get informed and understand what Made in USA means. Lastly, determine how this will affect your spending habits.

At Creative Imaging Displays we offer as many Made in USA products as we can find. We are excited to offer ecoSmart Sustainable Trade Show Displays to our product line up! These display systems are made locally in Portland, OR, with USA made hardware, graphics, and components. These systems are 95%+ USA made and only electronics, power supplies, etc. are from outside the US. Additionally, all hardware and graphics use recycled or recyclable materials! Please contact us if you have questions about any of our products including made in USA origin!