The American consumer, addicted for years to swearing by Camay, Camels, and Camphor, Ice, is in for a rude shock. His favorite brands may soon disappear from the market if the plans of WPB for concentrating civilian production in a few "nuclear" plants is adopted. Worried by the wastefulness of permitting every factory in an industry to spend most of its energies on war production and some of it in supplying civil markets, the concentration committee is drafting a program to allocate all non-essential production to a few plants which will give it their full attention. Brand-names and trademarks will be out for the duration; cigarettes will be just cigarettes and soap will be plain soap.
Economically, the idea is wholly, sound, but politically considerations, may swamp it. Business men, concerned lest such concentration destroy the "good-will" value of their trade-marks and ruin the competitive position of the "squeezed-out" firms in trading after the war, are opposing the program as strenuously as is possible in wartime. Some of them have come around to approve the principle, but they insist that the application of it be left in their hands, much as were the old NIRA codes. They are willing to sacrifice so long as it doesn't hurt their post-war position in their own industry.
Other elements of the American business structure can be expected to awake to the danger before it disturbs their dreams of rosy profits in an expanding economy. First to be hit will be the advertising agencies; except for "Bostitch-staples-are-winning-the-war" ads, brand-name publicity will vanish for the duration. Retailers may feel a distinctly uncomfortable pinch as special discounts for pushing one particular brand are made useless by the disappearance of the conditions which gave rise to them. So far, these groups have not protested loudly. That, however, is not a guarantee of a continued silence when the pressure begins to bear down harder.
The opposition is strange when viewed in the light of British experience. The same objections cropped up there, and the initial program followed the lines laid down by the manufacturers. Since then, however, industry itself has asked that the codes be taken over by the government and administered by it. Labor is no longer snubbed in drawing up the procedures, for business leaders have found that their counterparts on the side of labor often know as much about the industry as its managers. British industry has swallowed its pride in favor of its patriotism.
Despite complaints, actual and potential, WPB's new program must be formulated at once and applied as soon as possible thereafter. Britain has concentrated production of everything from bedding to umbrellas, and partly for that reason has raised her per-capita war production to a point above that of the United States. Tearing a leaf from the British book is one way of stealing the laurels from Hitler.