Location: Salt Lake City
Employees: about 50
After building a strong business in uniforms, President Trent Brown is preparing to bring "Made in the U.S.A." clothing to retail stores later this year.
The Salt Lake City-based apparel manufacturing company specializes in uniform programs for a variety of industries ranging from restaurants to safety apparel for utility and oil and gas workers, brought manufacturing back to the U.S. nearly a decade ago.
"It's a risk and you have to be very motivated to do it," Brown says. "What I find is that the companies that do have manufacturing in the U.S. very seldom have the ability to sell their goods, too."
"We've put together the ability to manufacture it and also sell it," says Brown. So we don't have to go through distribution, which I think is where everything is headed anyway."
Masterbrands' work with companies to supply their uniform and corporate needs has helped it hone its direct sales approach. It is now taking that knowledge and capability into the retail sales world, starting with ranch, farm and country wear stores. The company is testing the market this spring and plans to introduce a larger line this fall that includes jackets and more.
"We have a unique opportunity in that we believe the American consumer wants to buy made in the USA stuff. It begs the question: Why don't we?" explains Brown. "Why isn't it happening? When you go into retail the retail is not giving the consumer the opportunity there is nothing there that's made in the U.S." That's the driving factor behind Masterbrands' move into the retail space.
For its first 15 years, the company formerly had its production overseas. "We manufactured in China, we manufactured in South America, Central America and Mexico," Brown explains. "It became such a hassle getting things from South America and Mexico and certainly China."
"It's also about inventory control," he adds. "If I'm having it made in China it's a big guessing game." Manufacturing overseas takes months from when the product is ordered to when manufactured to when it's shipped and the company finally gets the materials. That leads to a lot of over-ordering and excess inventory, Brown contends. With Masterbrands' model, the company warehouses clothes in its roughly 20,000-square-foot warehouse and can supply most of its current customers with requested clothes within 48 hours.
"Made in the U.S. is part of it and also being able to help people save money through inventory control is part of it," Brown says. He adds that excess inventory has high costs for the retailers that have to warehouse the excess and often end up selling the stock off at highly discounted rates -- of 75 percent sometimes.
Brown contends that the company is now able produce clothes that are cost-competitive with clothes manufactured overseas. "We're saving on shipping, cost of lead time and our direct-to-business model."
"If I can create more of a just-in-time model of manufacturing clothing in different locations and supply the retailers with what they need in a quick enough time it saves them a ton of inventory," Brown says.
The company also is able to source materials in the U.S. "There are some big fabric mills that are doing fairly well in the U.S. still. That industry is making some comeback," Brown asserts.
Challenges: "Being efficient enough," Brown says. "Sewing clothing is still largely done by hand. Maintaining efficiency and also keeping the right people in this job can be hard it's a mundane task."
Opportunities: "Retail," says Brown. "We're very excited to launch that line. To give people the opportunity to buy something made in the U.S. for the same price they'd pay for something made overseas."
Needs: Educating customers about the the value of domestic production,including the jobs the companyhas created.
A UMA Member Company