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FDRA fearful of new tariff impact on consumer spending

Matt Priest, chief executive of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), has said his member companies would like to see both sides in the US-China trade dispute come together and reach a resolution that’s acceptable to all.

A consultation period on proposed new tariffs on products imported from China with a value of $200 billion per year ended on September 7 and Mr Priest told business media outlet Bloomberg that footwear companies are now waiting to see what steps the US government will take next.

Shoes, at the level of finished product, do not feature on the list of targeted products, but the FDRA chief executive said some consumer products, including backpacks, are now likely to be directly affected and that his member companies are wary about the effect this might have on consumer spending in general.

“There’s a lot of concern,” Mr Priest said, “because we import almost 100% of the shoes sold in the US and 71% of imports come from China. We already pay $1.5 billion a year in duties on those imported shoes from China. We know all too well the impact that duties have.”

He said FDRA has been talking about the effect of tariffs for many years and said he is convinced the US government cannot convince its Chinese counterpart to “change behaviour” by imposing tariffs.

Asked by Bloomberg how easy it would be for brands and retailers in the US to start sourcing shoes from alternative origins, Mr Priest said: “One of the things that are difficult for the global footwear industry to do is to quickly move from one country to the next. [Footwear manufacturing] takes a lot of capital investment and still takes a lot of skilled labour and that infrastructure is developed over time.”

Image shows a container ship arriving at the port of Long Beach, California.

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