In a 2004 Associated Press poll, 93 percent said they prefer to buy American if the prices are the same; 54 percent said they'd prefer to buy American even if it cost more. How much more was not specified.
If willing consumers are unable to find U.S. goods, the retailers aren't all to blame. The biggest, and simplest, obstacle to the sale of U.S. goods is that not many are being made.
Utah Woolen Mills is a family business that made fine textiles for decades. Family patriarch Briant Stringham, 79, explained how business is different now.
"A mill is a difficult thing to operate," said Stringham. "It got to be such a burden to sell output, you couldn't do it -- with the advent of synthetics, the cheaper fabrics."
Utah Woolen stopped making textiles altogether, and is now devoted to selling fine clothing -- mostly foreign-made.
"Our business has kind of maintained that idea of 'let's stay with quality, wherever we have to go to get it,' and it's just sad that you don't find a lot of American makes," said Bart Stringham, 55, Briant's son. "Out of 50, 60 lines, we maybe have 10 that are made in America. Not because we wouldn't buy from this country, because they don't offer the quality we want. ... It is sad, but true."
It is still possible to buy American goods. Our last stop was another family-owned business, an outdoors store run by Jack Kirkham. The store's signature product, the SpringBar tent, was designed by Kirkham's father in the early 1960s. It's an aficionado's tent, produced at a factory less than a mile away from the show floor.
The company sells thousands of tents a year, keeping about 25 people employed. Nearly every part of every tent is made in the U.S.A. "These steel wire stake loops come out of Chicago," said Kirkham. "The zippers are made in Georgia. The netting comes out of Massachusetts. The floor material is made in Ohio. The frame components basically come out of California, Seattle, Washington and Missouri."
There's one part of the tent that uses foreign parts, however: the fabric.
"Most of it is woven in India, various locations. But it is finished in Georgia. ... We can't find a textile made in the U.S. that does what we need it to do. We just can't find it.
"The level of quality that we put into these tents ... has to do with the workmanship and the materials. Just, there's not — it would make the tents too expensive to take these tents to another level of distribution. So we find that if we sell these tents direct, that we're able to sell them at a reasonable price. And it keeps us in business."
Reasonable, in this case, means just short of $500. That's maybe five times what you'd pay for a similarly sized tent at Wal-Mart.
Which is why you can't find buy a SpringBar tent at Wal-Mart.