Tariffs: What retailers need to know

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Whether you own a business, work in supply chain or just like to shop, you've probably heard about the recent implementation of tariffs and the Trump administration's actions on trade. We’ve spoken with many small business owners across the country about how tariffs and proposed tariffs impact their businesses and communities. In this episode of Retail Gets Real, we share some of those stories, while NRF's Vice President of Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jon Gold explains what retailers need to know about this complicated issue.

The administration is putting a lot of focus on U.S. manufacturing and bringing jobs back here to the United States. “Unfortunately, as we look at the global scene today, a lot of the jobs they think are going to come back to the U.S. just are not going to come back here,” Gold says. “Manufacturing has evolved over the past 50-plus years. We make more now with less people because of the efficiencies that have been created through the global value chain.”

Many retailers and manufacturers agree there are challenges with the U.S.-China trading relationship when it comes to things like forced technology transfer and lack of intellectual property rights enforcement. “The president believes using tariffs as a blunt force instrument is the way to get China to the table to negotiate,” Gold says. “Unfortunately, as we've seen ... the tariffs are not having that desired effect.”

“If all the tariffs get enacted, all our products are going to be affected.”

Bob Jones 
American Sale

In reality, they’re having an opposite effect, Gold says, because countries are now retaliating against the U.S. The impact is already clear on both U.S. imports and exports, and the effects will soon trickle down to impact nearly every consumer and the economy at large.

The trade policy also disproportionately affects small business owners like Bob Jones, the owner of American Sale in Chicago. “If all the tariffs get enacted, all our products are going to be affected,” Jones says. “The higher the prices are, then the less [willing] people are to buy those products. And so that impacts my business, which impacts my employees and, of course, impacts customers who are paying the tax.”

Many small business owners are in a similar situation, forced either pass the cost on to the consumer and cut margins. To learn more about the impact of trade tariffs and hear more business owners’ stories, listen to the full episode.

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