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Calling Out Costco 

Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:30am
by Lauren Kiesow, Associate Editor, Manufacturing.net

After calling on Costco for years and getting nowhere, one manufacturer took some unorthodox steps toward gaining access to a targeted distributor.

Mitch Liss is the president of Edsal Mfg. Co. Inc., an American manufacturer of steel shelving based out of Chicago. His company started humbly, opening in the 1950s out of a small garage with roughly $800 and some simple machinery. It has since grown, becoming one of the largest manufacturers of steel shelving.

Originally, Edsal was a relatively private company. They declined to distribute a lot of personal information, relying on word of mouth and one’s own curiosity to investigate and learn more. But recently, Liss has started to open up to the public, garnering particular attention for his latest crusade: pursuing wholesaler Costco to decrease the amount of Chinese-manufactured goods in its stores and increase the amount of American-manufactured goods. Liss has been able to get Sam’s Club to carry his products and is determined to do the same with Costco.

“I’ve called on Costco for eight years and have gotten nowhere. We’ll have a meeting and I’ll say, ‘I know you’re buying your stuff in China, but we’re here in Chicago.’ I’ll leave and won’t even get an e-mail,” Liss laments.

In an effort to show his true determination and passion, Liss sent a well-compiled letter and information packet to Costco’s CEO. Getting straight to the point, he queried, “How would you like to get a lower cost for literally the exact same product, lower your prices for members and add American jobs?” Liss then proceeded to detail how he manages to be as cost effective as Chinese manufacturers and how selling his product would be a positive move on Costco’s behalf. Interest seemingly piqued, the CEO told Liss what steps would have to be taken and that they’d be in touch.

As promising as that sounds, communication became sparse and convoluted. Getting nowhere fast, Liss decided to up the ante. He aired his grievances in a letter to the White House, garnering the attention of both Washington and Costco. The wholesaler outlined how to have the products tested — a necessary step in order for the store to sell his products — but again this proved cumbersome.

At the time of our conversation, Liss was gearing up for a third round of testing, knowing that his American-made products would pass with flying colors.

Targeting Costco is without a doubt a very specific goal. The bigger picture shows Liss pursuing businesses and educating them on how it’s not only cheaper to make goods in the U.S., but adds much-needed jobs as well. His campaign has garnered a strong reception, with a myriad of individuals praising his efforts. Ultimately, Liss admits that his zeal is for increasing work for Americans.

“It’s all about the jobs. Jobs need to return to the U.S., and I want to help make that a reality in any way possible.”

In order to raise awareness and disseminate information, discussing the country’s state of manufacturing is paramount. From sit-down interviews to brief television appearances, Liss constantly promotes his commitment to domestic production and expounds upon its importance. Not only is he passionate about his own company, but one can see he truly cares about the continued success of other companies as well.  

For more information about Edsal Manufacturing, please visit www.edsal.com. To sound off, e-mail lauren.kiesow@advantagemedia.com.

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