Little Giant Ladder Systems takes credit for unveiling the world's first articulating ladder in the early 1970s. But it wasn't until 2003 -- when the company launched an infomercial touting its made-in-the-USA ladders -- that Little Giant became a big name among American consumers.
"Foreign competition was coming in, basically straight from Asia at about half the price of a Little Giant," recalls Ryan Moss, CEO of the Springville, Utah-based manufacturer.
"So we made the decision to run an infomercial [featuring company founder Harold "Hal" Wing] to brand Little Giant as the original, American-made, safest, strongest, most versatile ladder in the world.
"It was wildly successful for a number of years."
That's not an exaggeration. In the first year after the infomercial hit the airwaves, Moss estimates that Little Giant's sales climbed 540%. The following year, business grew more than 500%, according to Moss.
"Adding people became a daily routine," Moss says.
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That gradually changed as Little Giant's sales came down from the "artificial high" of the infomercial. With sales tapering off and foreign competitors continuing to exert cost pressures on Little Giant's business, the company that once trumpeted its made-in-the-USA ladders toyed with the idea of making its products in Asia.
"We had discussions back and forth, back and forth, because of foreign competition," Moss recalls.
"But we made a decision that we were going to stay American-made."
Product quality was the No. 1 factor in keeping Little Giant in the United States, Moss adds.
"It's not that important to us to be the cheapest," he says. "We want to be the best. We want to have the most versatile, safest, high-quality products. And we feel like the solution for that is right here in Springville, Utah."
Still, like any manufacturer, Little Giant does everything it can to keep its costs down. Moss points to the company's investment in robotic welding technology during the height of the infomercial "chaos" as a critical tool in managing costs and responding to spikes in demand.
"It's been a great blessing to our company," Moss says.