February 28th, 2018
UPDATE 4/6/18: Wolverine has responded to TINA.org’s inquiry and, more importantly, made several changes to its made in the USA marketing in response to TINA.org’s findings outlined below. These include removing #madeinUSA from two Instagram posts and specifying in the caption of a third that the boot in the photo is “[b]uilt in Michigan with suede from Italy,” and taking down a “Handcrafted in Michigan” banner on product pages. Our original ad alert follows.
The rustic American flag has been rolled up and stowed away, and with it Wolverine’s claim that its Original 1000 Mile boots are “handcrafted” at its factory in Big Rapids, Michigan, in addition to other locations “across the country.”
Now, visitors to a “Made in the USA” page on the shoe maker’s site are left to ponder this message: “We’re sorry, no products were found for your search.”
What happened? TINA.org found that the Original 1000 Mile boots featured on the page contain “globally sourced materials,” namely, imported glues or threads, and alerted Wolverine that such a composition precludes it from marketing the boots as “Made in the USA.” (That’s not our opinion; it’s the law. Read more about the FTC’s rules on Made in the USA claims here.)
Wolverine never actually responded to our Feb. 13 inquiry but as they say, actions speak louder than words. That said, more action is required on the part of Wolverine if it intends to fall in line with the FTC’s position that only products containing “no — or negligible — foreign content” can be marketed as Made in the USA.
It can start by addressing these three Instagram posts, two of which display the hashtag #madeinUSA and a third that features an American flag in the image and the unqualified U.S.-origin claim “Made in Michigan” in the caption. (We helpfully provided Wolverine with a link to each one.)
According to the boots’ product pages on Wolverine.com, all three — the Louis Wedge, the Original 1000 Mile boot in black suede and the Original 1000 Mile boot in camo suede — are made with “globally sourced materials.” To find out what exactly those materials comprise of, TINA.org initiated a chat on Wolverine’s site. It was then that we were told that when those three words appear on a product page, that means the boots contain imported glues or threads.
Also of significance in regard to disclosure is where the words appear as the qualifying U.S.-origin language is not included alongside claims on some product pages that the boots are “Handcrafted in Michigan.” Rather, it is pushed further down the page in a much smaller sized font that consumers are more likely to miss and thus would probably not satisfy the FTC’s “clear and conspicuous” standard for disclosure.
In the shoes of a patriotic shopper
At $365, Wolverine’s Original 1000 Mile boots are not cheap. But studies show that some consumers are willing to pay more for products marketed as Made in the USA. However, the reality is some of these boots would probably crumble without their imported parts.
Find more of our coverage on Made in the USA claims here.