No. 72 NAI DFA ES Box 30 File 202(3)

Extracts from a report from Irish Consulate Offices, New York, to Department
of Trade and Shipping on Irish trade possibilities in the United States, by
Lindsay Crawford

NEW YORK, 25 April 1923


With an increasing volume of imports into the United States, enterprise and sound judgment should enable Irish firms to find an expanding market for their surplus produce. No one can forecast the future. Whatever the outcome of the present forward movement, and despite the tariff, there is a market for those who cater to a select trade. Ireland cannot hope to compete with the mass production of American factories working on cheap lines, but the demand for better quality that now prevails provides an opening for superior Irishmade products.

That Irish products rank high in the estimation of American buyers is evidenced by the dishonest attempts to pass off inferior American-made commodities as 'Irish' or 'Irish-made'. Irish exporters must realize that competition today is keener than ever, and that countries hitherto little known are now exporting to America goods for which Ireland hitherto had a worldwide reputation. Inferior Chinese handmade lace - Irish style - is fast supplanting the Irish make and frequently advertised and sold as 'Real Irish'. Cotton imitations of Irish poplin are sold as 'Irish Poplin'. Motor rugs of inferior quality are sold as 'Donegal motor rugs'. Unscrupulous trading has wrought serious injury in money and reputation to Irish producers. The fault partly lies with the Irish producer, in his failure to adopt more intelligent and aggressive methods in the merchandising of his goods. The present generation cannot afford to rest upon the reputation of the past. The public memory is shortlived and a country is known industrially not so much by its achievements in the past as by its present samples and pushfullness in advertising its wares.

An export trade calls for more, not less, effort and intelligent handling than are necessary in a home trade. Too often the surplus produce is shipped overseas as a pious hope rather than a business certainty, and without any intelligent appreciation of the condition of the American or other market to which the goods are sent. When shipments turn out badly, the exporter decides that it is a losing business and not worth while. Business in the United States is a science in which efficiency and aggressiveness are the last words. Only by a close study of American tastes, wants and business methods is it possible to carry on a satisfactory export trade. Last year a Donegal manufacturer of homespuns and hose visited the United States. He returned with new ideas, having found out what the American people wanted, and is now finding a market for all he produces. How many Irish manufacturers think it worth while to investigate American conditions on the spot and see for themselves the openings for new lines of goods which the manufacturers of other countries annually explore? The old method of sending to the United States the surplus of commodities that are manufactured to suit Irish and European needs is an exploded commercial heresy. An export trade carried on chiefly as an outlet for surplus trade, and as a mere temporary measure for the deflation of stock, cannot be strictly classified as a sound export business.

That the U.S. tariff is not an insurmountable obstacle may be inferred from the increasing imports of foreign goods into this country. That there are methods by which the prohibitive effects of the new tariff may be minimised is seen by the large store combine that has been formed by several American houses, to be known as the Associated Dry Goods Corporation. Its annual purchasing power in the principal markets of Europe amounts to several millions of dollars. These importing firms have joined forces in the creation of this huge central purchasing agency to be represented in London, Paris and Berlin, and hope in a short time to enrol other firms, eventually having a purchasing power in Europe of many millions annually. Boston, New York, Buffalo, Baltimore, Newark, N.J., Louisville and Minneapolis are cities at present represented in this combination. It is hoped to offset the tariff by cutting down the purchasing expenses abroad. These department stores, it may be added, conducted a vigorous campaign against the Fordney-McCumber Tariff law. Having lost in the fight they have turned their business experience to the formation of an agency by means of which the worst effects of the new Customs duties may be mitigated. Such a combination may in time monopolize the textile and sundry output of Europe and fix the prices at both ends. Its ostensible aim is to meet American-made competition by the lowering of import values to American competing levels. It may be that the experiment will have to face the hazards of combine laws which at present are being rigorously applied.
[Matter omitted]

That Irish producers should regard with intensive interest the present and future trade possibilities of the United States as a market for Irish goods, and that opportunities are presented for the sale of superior Irish-made products, are the conclusions intended to be drawn from this report. Ireland stands to gain commercially by the publicity in recent times, as it has directed attention anew to the undeveloped resources of the country and her remarkable showing in trade activity in abnormal and depressing times. That the American trade in imported commodities for which Ireland is famous should, through any lack of Irish enterprise or adaptability, be diverted to other countries less known is not to be considered.

The question of the merchandising of Irish commodities is one of pressing importance, in view of the high state of efficiency in other countries. The tendency in the United States is towards collective activity. In textiles consideration should be given to the feasibility of establishing central showrooms in London and New York for the purpose of encouraging more direct contact between the Irish manufacturer and the foreign buyer. A capable salesman, with an exhibit of all the latest Irish products, would aid considerably in the expansion of the export Trade. The same principle might apply to other surplus commodities. Much of the pessimism which experience of the export trade has engendered in Ireland is due to avoidable mistakes in merchandising. The confidence of the buyer, and greater satisfaction in trading, would follow some concerted plan for the establishment of permanent relations between producer and buyer through central show-rooms in the large buying centres. In Canada, where the U.S. tariff has led to intensive cultivation of other foreign markets, University Extension courses for Export Managers are provided by Canadian universities in co-operation with the Department of Trade and Commerce. A thorough training in export business is there regarded as a condition precedent to success. In the new era upon which Industrial Ireland now enters, efficiency in export trade must not lag behind that of other countries now entering into keen competition for foreign trade, much of which Ireland is capable of supplying.

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