HANDMADE PLUSHIES? SO EXPENSIVE?!

Non-bias view based on facts, numbers, and personal experience. This is not made to guilt-trip anyone to make a decision on whether or not to buy handmade products. That is for you to decide. This is merely to put things into perspective and to explain ‘why’.

If any of the data looks wrong, you are encouraged to correct me! I thank you in advance for helping me by sharing your information and knowledge.

Consumer: Why is it so Expensive? I can get them for cheaper from any regular retail store or even online. It’ll likely be of the exact same character!

Honestly, as much as people will hate to admit, this is a really good thing to consider.
But the REAL question is:

     ‘Why are plush prices SO DIFFERENT?!’.

First, WHERE are they made?

Less than 5% of the toys are made in America.

China is one of the largest producers of toy products. Depending on your source, anywhere from 50% – 95% of all toys are manufactured in China. The higher side of that percent range may seem ridiculous but what we do take away from that is that it is OVER 50% at least.

Second, what are the Differences?

USA:

minimum wage of $1150 a month ($7.50/hr)

average cost of living (for household) $2371 a month

= minimum wage only covers

48% of average monthly costs

China:

minimum wage of $170 a month ($1.60/hr)

average cost of living (for household) $1000 a month

example bare-bone survival cost $400 a month

= minimum wage only covers

17% of average monthly costs

Result:

1. Are they paid a lot? When we consider how much, on average, it takes to ‘live’ in the country. In comparison to the US, they are being paid half or less of what they ‘need’. In perspective, it is like getting paid $3-4/hr.

2. Translate that into US company perspective. Making a plush: If it takes one hour to make one plush, US pays a China worker $2/hr and pays a US worker $7.50/hr. Therefore, it is 3-4 times cheaper to make things in China.

3. US import tax: there are no import taxes on plushies from China

What does it mean for consumers?

If you want the product to be made legally in the US (ie. the minimum wage is recognized), you need to expect to pay 2-4 times more than something made overseas.

Consumer: In that case, WHY would I even buy things made in the USA anymore?!

This question is a loaded one as many have ethical and logical arguments. However, in my opinion, this is a personal question that each one of us should answer and decide for yourself. But there are a few things we can consider about this.

Mass-Produced vs. Handmade

Factory-made:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLBWf0FuRBg&t=21s

Disclaimer: this is not a ‘feel bad for the worker’ or a ‘promotional message’ video. This is a pure ‘how it is made’ video.

Where it is the same:

Machine sewing, Fabric overturning, Stuffing, Hand-sewn close

Where it differs:

Die-cut, embroidery

In handmade world: we do not have the heavy machinery to mass-cut 1000 cloths at once. We also do not have the machinery to embroider 1000 pieces of cloth at one time.

The “cost” we need to consider is “time”:

handmade artist need to hand-cut each ‘pattern’ out by hand

handmade artist need to take time to reload cloth for each  new embroidery

Considerations:

material, quality control

Material: from experience with working with factories myself, there are often limitations on what kind of fabric can be used. It will usually be what is most available in their country, to the factory themselves, and what they commonly use. However, with handmade products, you often find artist will be more willing to pay and search out higher quality material.

Quality control: when you are creating things in bulk as factories are, it is hard to quality control each one to satisfaction. This occurs in all industries and the results can often be seen on the news of dangerous objects found in toys, tools, or even food. Naturally, when creating things in limited quantities (as handmade artist are force to do), it is easier to quality control and check 10 vs. 1000 plushies. Even if each one is being checked over. The fact is that one factory worker is usually checking more than 10 in one day.

However, these can only be ‘consideration’ because factories that pride themselves on their quality and material can be very competitive.

The True Appeal

: Limited quantity

The true appeal of handmade products is the limitations. Artists create unique works of art. If they choose not to factory product their designs, they are limited to what they themselves as an individual can create (differs with each artist). As a result, in any given time the world will only have a limited number of their designs available. With the nature of demand vs supply: if there is more demand than they are able to keep up with, the cost and value naturally will increase. As a result, you often are paying for the ‘rarity’ and ‘uniqueness’ of a handmade artists’ product design. As for all art, you as an individual must ask yourself (and not the artist), is it worth is for me?

What to take away.

Buying a product is a very personal thing. Everyone’s values are very different. However, it is very important to consider what went into creating the product in order to properly access its true value. I urge consumers and artist alike not to push their own values onto each other. Recognize differences and if the other party ask and seems willing to listen, share your perspective. However, do not demand change. Demand understanding.

Sources: 

http://www.toyassociation.org/app_themes/tia/pdfs/facts/2012toyoutlook.pdf

The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for America’s Youngest Consumers by Eric Clark

http://cost-of-living.careertrends.com/l/615/The-United-States

https://www.justlanded.com/english/China/China-Guide/Money/Currency-and-cost-of-living

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-09/30/content_22017853.htm

https://www.dutycalculator.com/popular-import-items/import-duty-and-taxes-for-plush-toys/

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