Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The furniture retailer's LOCAL collection Keeps it Made in America.

It can be tough to find affordable, Made in America goods for your home. But retailer West Elm is making things easier through its LOCAL collection, which offers one-of-a-kind products that are designed by local makers — and are locally made.

West Elm, part of the company that also owns furniture mainstays Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, specializes in a wide range of household products, including home décor items from furniture to bedding to lighting to bath items to tabletops.

Many of West Elm’s products are crafted by hand using locally sourced materials. When you choose to buy a sofa that’s built here in the U.S., you’re helping to keep 1,500+ jobs in the good ole’ US of A.

The company launched West Elm LOCAL in just two stores in 2013 to connect local artisans to customers. It’s been a resounding success —it has now reached more than 70 stores throughout the United States.

Each LOCAL in-store collaboration features hand-picked goods designed and crafted by local makers, which means that each store features unique products with a local flair. West Elm claims that 500 makers have taken part, producing 4,500 different products since the initiative began. 

At the West Elm store in Washington, D.C., I came across a variety of decorative household items. Homemade leather accessories that make for a fashionable wallet or business card holders were available.

Items made from recycled materials were plentiful. Wood trays made from reclaimed wood, letterpress goods made from recycled and cotton paper and coasters are small items that would make a nice finishing touch to a room.  

There was also art and prints that would make any wall decorative and colorful. 

An employee at the D.C. store, Jim, described to me the process how local makers are able to make it to the shelves nationwide: Local manufacturers start off in the local store. If popular with buyers, makers are then submitted to corporate headquarters for consideration to be in stores nationwide.

West Elm LOCAL also offers a number of its products online, so you can buy many of its unique Made in America designs if there isn’t a store near you.

Beyond selling locally-crafted products in its stores, West Elm also offers a $25,000 annual maker grant that helps grow small businesses from the ground up. Along with the grant, West Elm shifts 10 percent of its annual spending to local businesses, creating jobs and developing new economic support. There's also an online toolkit designed to help makers get their products off the ground.

While focusing on the importance to bring the local manufactures and buyers together, West Elm also is mindful of its environmental impact. Many of the company’s wood products are made from wood that is 100 percent reclaimed through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). West Elm claims it also was the first home goods retailer to make rugs certified by Fair Trade USA.