Tuesday, July 28, 2009

JCPenney's "American Made" Tee Shirt is Made in Mexico

JCPenney has a line of products which they call American Living. The line includes apparel, luggage, furniture, home furnishings & decor items.

Reading labels at JCPenney reveals an array of countries that contribute to their inventory including China, Taiwan, Honduras, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico, etc. How might you expect the U.S. to be represented in such a diverse setting? You might like to think that the American Living brand would be the ideal means for the U.S. to be included, but alas, that brand is nearly all or entirely foreign made.

Before you frown, upset that so many other countries contribute to JCPenney's inventory rather than the U.S. - know that JCPenney found a use for our beloved country.

The U.S. & all things American makes a splendid marketing tool for JCPenney.

Yes, the foreign made American Living brand has a logo with a bald eagle carrying our U.S. flag and the brand is marketed with wholesome American families, country bands & singers, and white picket fences. JCPenney doesn't feel obligated to actually offer American made products instead they are content to simply brand foreign made products with all things that are American.

In addition to leveraging our national symbols and our American lifestyle to hawk foreign made goods, JCPenney placed a Memorial Day advertisement for a tee shirt with the slogan "American Made."

The advertisement caught the eye of a man named Joe Allen.

Mr. Allen was a clothing manufacturer until his company was lost due to unfair foreign competition.

At first, Mr. Allen was delighted with the tee shirt that JCPenney advertised with "American Made" across the front until he read the label in the store that disclosed the shirt was made in Mexico.

Incensed, Mr. Allen brought the tee shirt to the attention of the A.A.M. who contacted JCPenney about the garment. Their spokesperson, Kelly Sanchez explained the slogan "American Made." "This type of slogan is referring to the actual person wearing the shirt and not to the manufacturing of the merchandise."

As I sit here in my American made chair, at my American made desk, wearing my American made undergarments, Capri pants, top & New Balance footwear, I realize that I was lost to the fact that I myself am American made. Does this mean there is a Made in USA label stitched to my birth certificate?

We have JCPenney resorting to reminding their customers that at least they are themselves American made if not the garments that JCPenney wants to sell to them. JCPenney thinks we Americans might be in need of a shirt that promotes American made people, but not American made products.

It gets better - JCPenney told BusinessWeek that the line is “intended to evoke our American lifestyle and pride in being American.”

I've not seen the shirt yet somehow it most certainly evoked something in me which can not be described as pride.

So, JCPenney believes that pride in being American is best accomplished with a shirt that is made in Mexico. I'm now wondering if JCPenney requires an American flag to fly outside their headquarters that was made in China for them to feel pride in being American.

JCPenney has been in operation in the U.S. for 105 years yet I can't help but conclude that their management & marketing personnel have not been in this country for long.

As a businessperson, I'm sensitive and mindful of marketing. The origin of that tee shirt & the American Living brand makes all the difference in the world between a sincere marketing message and one that is profoundly vacant.

All things American brings a world of meaning to us which is exactly why JCPenney unconscionably brands all things imported with everything that is American.

JCPenney hi-jacked our American flag, our bald eagle, our American families & lifestyles, our country & Rock 'N Roll artists, our celebrations in life, our nations scenery, even our white picket fences to brand their imported schlock and now wants to sell Americans a made in Mexico shirt to promote pride in being American.

All things American holds no greater meaning for JCPenney than how well it can move imported product out the door.

All things American though goes bone deep to the rest of us.

The only thing in all of this that I recognize as genuinely American is Mr. Allen.

This elderly former American manufacturer was tricked by JCPenney into thinking they were offering a tee shirt that was made in our own country promoting a message that was very important and meaningful to him.

It was a wasted trip to the store for Mr. Allen - he found nothing American at JCPenney.

If you care to share your views, you can contact JCPenney's CEO, Myron Ullman at 972-431-8200. You can also phone Kelly Sanchez at 972-431-3961 or email her at ksanch18@jcpenney.com.

For an example of a sincere marketing message, see the New Balance video in the post below.

If you are shopping for an American made tee shirt, may I suggest Union Shirt Supply. They offer 100% USA union made tee shirts. A loose fitting style for women in colors can be purchased for $7.50.

The imported American Living tee shirts at JCPenney with their logo were selling for $30.00 and are presently priced at $14.99.

Mary - Webperson for FindUSMade.com


  1. Great posting! I too am always in search for American made items. It seems to be getting harder and harder to find. If you take the time to read the labels, like you were saying, you can find items that are indeed made here on American soil.
    Good luck to you and thanks for the tip on american made tee shirts.

  2. I work in the apparel industry and I am seeing an increasing interest in American made products from the consumer recently. Unfortunately marketing executives are taking advantage of this trend by inferring that products are American made when they are not, such as the JC Penney example you blogged about. Well I have another one for you. Check out Stetson's new tag line..."Made of America". I can't say for sure regarding hats and perfume, but I know for a fact that the apparel is made in China. I think you would get a very similar response from Stetson that you got from JC Penney.

  3. My spending has come to almost a halt. I refuse to buy anything unless it is made in america. I'm sure saving lots of money. Thanks for your posting.