Are New Balance Shoes Really Made in the USA?
Posted: Dec 28, 2021
The New Balance running shoe company is one of the major players in the running shoe and sneaker market. Like all their competitors, most of their shoes are manufactured in different Asian countries for cost reasons. However, they are unique in the industry in that they do maintain some manufacturing facilities in the USA, so some of their shoes do carry the ‘made in the USA’ label. This is however, controversial in that many of the components used in these shoes that are manufactured in the USA have components, such as the sole units, that are manufactured in Asia. This has raised questions as to if New Balance are being legitimate in making the claim that their shoes are ‘made in the USA’.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules state that if marketers and manufacturers want to promote their products as being ‘Made in USA’ they must meet the FTC standard of "all or virtually all" being manufactured in the USA. To meet this standard, The FTC looks at where the manufacturing takes place and how much of the product’s total manufacturing costs can be assigned to the USA parts and processing, and how far removed any foreign content is from the finished product. New Balance assert on their website and on their product labelling that they do meet that criterion when they label the product as being made in the USA. New Balance interpret that rule to mean that more than 70% of the cost of making the product in based in the USA, so that is sufficient.
The claims by New Balance have not been enough to fight off legal challenges to their claims and that they are misleading. In the 1990s, the FTC did try to bring an enforcement action against New Balance over the claims that they were making which they eventually dropped its action after a legal challenge from New Balance. In 2019 a class-action lawsuit was negotiated and settled by New Balance for $750,000 over claims that New Balance made that their shoes are falsely advertised as "Made in the USA". In July 2021 the FTC did release new guidelines for the use of the ‘Made in USA’ claims that appears to be stricter than previously. This prompted the group, Truth in Advertising Inc to file a complaint against New Balance with the FTC alleging that for too long New Balance has brazenly violated Made in USA origin laws. This was followed by another class-action lawsuit being filed in 20 December 2021 against New Balance about their "Made in USA" claims. The lawsuit alleges that the New Balance products that have this tagline are not entirely made in the USA that is misleading consumers into thinking they are buying a USA product. They are seeking $5 million in damages.
New Balance are no doubtably pushing the limits with their claims, but they allege that they do not violate the rules. For marketing purposes it does allow the company to convince consumers that they do support manufacturing in the USA.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.