From our "Yee Haw, I'm Proud to Be An American" file...
Cowboy boots carry 'Made in China' label AZCentral.com (1.03.05)
Showing off the bootmaking plant founded by his famous grandfather after a stint in the U.S. Cavalry, Rudolph Lama can't help sounding a little patriotic.
"There are three things this country can still be proud of," he said with a glint in his eye, "Harley–Davidson motorcycles, Wrangler jeans and Tony Lama cowboy boots."
It would be hard to find a product more emblematic of America than cowboy boots, and Tony Lamas are considered top of the line. But reach inside and the label may read: "Made in China."
About 35 to 40 percent of the Tony Lama line is outsourced, according to Lama, who now manages international sales for Justin Brands, which acquired Tony Lama Co. in 1990.
Half of Justin's Chippewa Boots footwear is produced in China, while 20 percent of the company's upscale Nocona brand comes from Mexico, Lama says. Between 75 and 80 percent of the Justin Boots brand are crafted overseas.
Wait for it, wait for it...
"We are operating in a global economy... and the prevailing trend right now is to outsource," Lama explained. "All children's boots now come from India."
Such admissions are touchy subjects for boot manufacturers. Since the interview with Lama, a spokeswoman for Justin Brands e–mailed that Lama "feels several of his comments were taken out of context and they serve to paint a negative picture of the brand" while the company itself was "proud to produce a large number of products domestically."
No new outsourcing numbers were offered, however. In a second e–mail, the spokeswoman said that "if the people you spoke with gave you these numbers, then you are right."
At Justin's El Paso factory, modern methods have taken over in other ways. A computer-programmed embroidery machine has replaced 100 workers who used to do the fancy stitching. The factory churns out 1,000 top–quality pairs of boots a day.
The workforce overwhelmingly is Hispanic; some of them are residents of Juarez, Mexico, which lies on the opposite bank of the Rio Grande. They stitch and adjust and nail and glue, and shine to help sell the final product for between $200 and $1,500 a pair.
"Much cheaper, if they are made in China," Lama interjected. (Indeed, Mexico's shoe industry reportedly lost 7,000 jobs in 2002, partly because of competition from Asia.)
Hilarious! The global economy seems to sink all boats except for those like Lama who, we're betting, has never done anything in his life except SELL the company his grandfather created to the highest bidder. We're also sure Grampy Lama would have been proud! Kudos to you Lama (wanna place bets he's a Republican?
Oh, wait: we almost forgot the kicker! Here it is...
"We had 120 percent growth over the past four years," he boasted.
But he admitted that two–thirds of his output now comes from Mexico, and a deal with China may be in the offing.
Happy New Year!!