- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2005

Santa Claus is one of the few major toy makers left who doesn’t manufacture his products in China.

While Santa’s elves get busy at the North Pole, most other toy makers — including Microsoft, Apple, Mattel and Tonka — put together their Xboxes, IPods, Barbie dolls and trucks in China.

For most consumers, especially those with young children on their Christmas list, products made outside the United States will account for the bulk of their holiday shopping.

The list of dolls and toy trucks produced outside the United States includes some of the most popular brands: Barbie, Bratz, Polly Pockets, American Girl, Little Tikes, Hot Wheels and Tonka. They are made in China, Indonesia or Mexico.

Imports from China account for 81 percent of all toys sold in the United States, says J. Craig Shearman, vice president for public relations at the National Retail Federation, a trade group in Washington.

Although the U.S. imported $648 billion in consumer goods last year, some toys continue to be made here.

Crayola’s crayons, markers, paints and modeling clay are made in Easton, Pa. Hasbro’s board games, such as Memory and Sorry, as well as most books, including Scholastic’s titles, are made in the United States.

Shopping for tech-minded teenagers means shopping for goods produced by Chinese and Japanese manufacturers. Apple’s IPod and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 are made in China. Most video games are made in Japan.

Even that time-tested gift for grandparents — slippers — comes with the ubiquitous “Made in China” imprint or gold sticker. DearFoam, Isotoner and Alpine brands are produced there.

Buying a man’s sweater takes the shopping list into new countries. The men’s sweater section at Bloomingdale’s in Tysons Corner Center includes products from Turkey, Hong Kong, China, Romania, Italy, Peru, Indonesia and Malaysia. Two labels there, Ted Baker London and Burberry, carry sweaters made in the United States, Britain and Canada.

The National Association of Manufacturers says U.S. companies turn out higher-end items now instead of lower-end items that are common gifts.

“Obviously people aren’t shopping for MRI machines and jet engines for their loved ones at Christmastime,” says Darren McKinney, a spokesman for the trade group in Washington.

For lower-end items, retailers seek the cheapest stock.

“That increasingly means foreign-made products,” Mr. Shearman says.

Roger Simmermaker, author of the book “How Americans Can Buy American,” says U.S. citizens should seek out American-made products.

“It means more jobs for Americans, and workers in foreign countries don’t pay taxes to America,” Mr. Simmermaker says. “Those fees … support Social Security, Medicare, public schools and the national debt.”

Shoppers say they would like to buy American brands, but often can’t.

“It sounds bad that so many things we buy are processed overseas, but I don’t really think about it when I buy,” says Brenda Abercrombie, an Ashburn, Va., resident shopping Tuesday at Tysons Corner Center on Tuesday.

Products made by U.S. manufacturers are sometimes hard to find.

Live Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states and sold locally, but 80 percent of the artificial ones are made in China.

The ornaments, if not homemade with paste and glitter, probably will have been produced outside the United States, too. Ornaments depicting characters from “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Simpsons,” among others at Santa’s Treasure Chest, are imprinted with “Made in China.”

When shoppers run out of ideas, though, there’s Plan B: the gift card. The majority of them are still made in the United States.

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