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On My Mind

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Woolrich, Inc.---Then and Now

The Woolrich, Inc. website has an inspiring Flash history of the company, from its early days in the 1830’s as a supplier of rugged, warm woolen cloth and clothing to loggers and frontiersmen. Images of steam engines, mountain climbers, and the woolen mill in Woolrich, PA fade out and the image of “Woolrich Today” comes into view. The site proudly notes that the Woolrich Woolen Mill is one of the oldest in the U.S.A. What the history doesn’t say is that the march of progress has included almost total outsourcing of production.

After searching in vain on their website for anything that was made in USA, I resorted to “Live Chat” and here is what I was told:

“For American apparel companies to survive and grow in this past decade and in the future, we have all had to become truly global. Our company has been able to increase American employment in marketing, merchandising, administration, and retail. Although we manufacture many of our garments (or components) overseas, they are designed by us and meet our strict quality standards and specifications. We employ 850 people in the U.S.A, and we strive to keep as much manufacturing here as possible, but companies today have little choice but to compete in a global economy. When consumers choose to purchase Woolrich products, even those products made in foreign countries, they continue to support our 850 American employees.”

The bottom line is that, with the exception of a few huntwear and blanket items, Woolrich (“The Original Outdoor Clothing Company, celebrating our 175th year”) is now primarily a retail outlet for imported products. Still, I am glad they have managed (so far) to keep the mill going. I notice, for example, that their Civil War reproduction fabrics are still made in the Woolrich, PA mill…


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