At Dollar General, Perdue faced recalls of Chinese imports

Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue’s primary defense against Democrats’ attacks on outsourcing in his business career has been his time growing U.S. jobs as CEO of Dollar General.

But although Dollar General brought in much of its merchandise from America, it was also sourcing products from overseas, and more than 1.2 million products imported from China were yanked from shelves during Perdue’s tenure from 2003 to 2007.

The recalls were mostly because of lead contamination, but other problems included fire hazards. Only one injury was reported from the products, a 2-year-old who suffered mouth and throat irritation from a chemical after chewing on a watch band.

Dollar General was not the only company to face such recalls. Target and Limited Too were among the retailers caught up in a series of lead contamination recalls in 2007 that made national news and sparked a congressional investigation. In 2012 alone the Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted 439 recalls of 91 million units.

Asked about them this week, Perdue said: “Well, you’ve got recalls everywhere.” He said they did not have much of an impact on the business.

Perdue’s Democratic foe, nonprofit executive Michelle Nunn, has hammered the Republican on the work he did building up companies’ sourcing in Asia, among other aspects of his career. The product recalls were further ammunition.

“As we get through the layers of David’s business career, there continues to be more and more questions,” Nunn said. “We’re at the tail end of the campaign, but I think we’re not at the tail end of the layers of David’s business careers, the layers of outsourcing and the troubling insights.”

Perdue has touted his time at Dollar General as the chief item on his resume.

“A lot of people are critical about this outsourcing idea, but the issue is at Dollar General for example we created almost 20,000 jobs in a very short period of time, and we outsourced all of the products and services that we sold in the stores,” Perdue told Chuck Todd, the anchor of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” this week. “Most of those — all of those, practically — were made in the United States.”

Perdue expanded the company’s reach into low-cost Asian markets, including opening a Hong Kong sourcing office in 2004. But federal documents indicate Dollar General did, in fact, get most of its goods from inside the U.S.

“We directly imported approximately 9% of our purchases at cost in 2007, but many of our domestic vendors directly import their products or components of their products,” according to an annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The same report also listed “enhanced domestic sourcing” as a reason why the company gave Perdue a raise in 2007 before he left. As the AJC reported in May, Perdue was paid $42 million by Dollar General in 2007 and 2008.

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