Worries with holiday shopping season ‘right around the corner’
President Trump’s trade war with China went into high gear Monday, just after Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer with 24-hour supercenters in Culpeper, Luray and Warrenton, identified 30 key items among thousands targeted with tariffs — what it calls its “worry list” — that could potentially cause the biggest impact on consumers and business.
The goods included toddler seats, high chairs, backpacks, handbags, tote bags, travel bags, hard luggage, hair care, toiletries, makeup mirrors, electric razors and toothbrushes, vacuum cleaners, bicycles, rawhide for pets, dog leashes and collars, air conditioners, mattresses, futons, patio and miscellaneous furniture, fryers and toaster ovens, gas grills, HDMI cables, video cables, extension and auxiliary cords, Christmas lights and rolled gift wrapping paper.
In a letter to the United States Trade Representative prior to the tariffs taking effect, Walmart warned that the latest round of trade penalties could result in steep price hikes in its stores “that could impact a significant number of common consumer items that are not easily replaceable.”
Costs, said the retail giant, could rise “for households who rely on these products to meet their daily needs.”
“Either consumers will pay more, suppliers will receive less, retail margins will be lower, or consumers will buy fewer products or forego purchases altogether,” Walmart wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation, said in his own statement Friday: “We cannot afford further escalation, especially with the holiday shopping season right around the corner.”
What Shay didn’t say is that most top retailers like Walmart, including online leader Amazon, already purchased their 2018 holiday stock before Monday’s tariffs went into effect.
But that didn’t stop Target, which has stores in Culpeper and Front Royal, as well as JC Penney to issue complaints to the Trump administration surrounding what amounts to $200 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, from pet food and seafood to baseball gloves and sticky ribbon fly catchers.
In finalizing the long list of tariffs, USTR stressed that the United States was responding to China’s “theft” of American intellectual property and “forced transfer” of American technology. It said China’s actions, policies and practices were “unreasonable, discriminatory and a burden” that restricted U.S. commerce.
The list imposed on Monday contains 5,745 full or partial tariff lines of an original 6,031 lines announced on July 10. But the list was tweaked more favorably to U.S. consumers and commerce after USTR received public comments over a six-week period and testimony during a six-day public hearing in August, after which 297 tariff lines were either fully or partially removed.
Spared items include consumer electronic products like smart watches and Bluetooth devices; chemical inputs for manufactured goods, textiles and agriculture; and safety equipment that includes bicycle helmets and child safety furniture.
The 10 percent tariffs that went into effect Monday are scheduled to rise to 25 percent at the end of this year, and prices in stores could rise accordingly, unless China was persuaded to come to the trade negotiating table. At the same time, China could take retaliatory action, causing the trade war to further escalate.
A manager at the Warrenton Walmart, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he’s received no official guidance from the company’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters on how it might handle the tariffs, including whether the company might absorb some of the added costs instead of passing them on to its customers.