I first learned about Liberator sex-furniture from the amazing sex-positive webcomic Oh Joy Sex Toy: the company makes foam wedges, half-spheres, pillows and even loungers that help couples (or more!) comfortably sustain sexual positions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, whether due to a lack of athleticism or some kind of disability.
What I didn't know was that Liberators are made by Luvu, the largest sex-furniture manufacturer in the USA, based in suburban Atlanta. Luvu is a fast-growing, profitable business that employs its workers full time and pays them three times what it would have to pay in China. Luvu works primarily with immigrants and recent graduates from addiction-recovery programs. They have an extensive in-house training program that gets new workers up to speed on CAD software and sewing technology.
The company is committed to reducing manufacturing waste, and has launched a successful side-business that recycles offcuts of foam into bean bags and pool floats, and that business has grown so fast that it has absorbed all the waste from Luvu's own products, so the company now uses the waste of other furniture manufacturers as well.
The company sources its materials locally, and enjoys a home-town advantage with US customers: shipping bulky items from China is less practical than shipping phones or other compact items. What's more, they have a discerning customer base who recognize the quality of Luvu's products and are willing to pay a premium for that quality.
Not every company can operate like Luvu brands does. It is fairly small, after all, with $17 million in yearly sales and 170 employees. Yet there are important lessons that can be learned from the company’s practices. The biggest one? Manufacturing in the US, even textile manufacturing, can be both cheaper and more ethical than manufacturing overseas.
A sex-furniture factory may not be what most people have in mind when they think about bringing industry back to the US, but it’s these kind of specialty companies that are managing to put the passion back into for American manufacturing.
What the largest sex-furniture manufacturer in the US can teach America about trade [Hallie Lieberman/Quartz]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Oh Joy Sex Toy)