What New Tariffs Mean For One Store Owner
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Months of promising trade talks between China and the U.S. broke down this past week. When the two sides failed to reach a deal, President Trump raised tariffs from 10 to 25% on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Consumer products affected by the tariffs include computers, furniture and luggage. Earlier this year, we spoke to Tiffany Williams, the owner of the Luggage Shop of Lubbock in Texas. This was after the first tariffs on Chinese imports were imposed. We have her on the line again. Welcome back to the program.
TIFFANY WILLIAMS: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I think in the first round of tariffs, 85% of the supply in your store was affected because you bulk import from China. And you saw increased prices, and you didn't meet some of your sales goals. So how do you think this round of tariffs will affect you?
WILLIAMS: I hate to use the word detrimental, but it will definitely have a huge impact. I don't know how the timing's going to come on that and how our vendors are going to respond. I don't know if they'll respond the full amount or not. So I think, you know, it'll - it's just going to take our bread and butter, which is our mid-price-point and higher-end luggage, and make it extremely expensive. Because in October we had the opportunity - you know, there was some warning. And so we actually brought in product at the lower price before the price increases, you know, just so we had an opportunity to build in a little bit of extra margin, which was helpful. But then, we won't - we won't have - I don't know if we'll have that opportunity this time or not.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right because President Trump announced it pretty quickly as a reaction to the way that the negotiations were going.
WILLIAMS: Right, and how ironically that they were announced during Small Business Week - (laughter) - on top of everything else.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I didn't know that it was a Small Business Week. Tiffany, what is your best-selling luggage line there?
WILLIAMS: Right. Well, we - kind of the example I've used is, you know, so if we had a piece of luggage on our store that was at $400 and, you know, has now gone up to $440, but that $400 piece of luggage goes up to $500, then that becomes a really big price jump.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So how are you feeling?
WILLIAMS: I'm feeling, you know, very uncertain. I mean, we've really had to scramble to try to figure out what the rest of the year is going to look like. You know, it's really difficult as a small business owner to have so much uncertainty in knowing how to plan, how to hire, how to, you know, go forward from here. And, you know, our business is already off as we start the year. And I think it's because, you know, a little bit - I mean, I think it has a lot to do with the price increase on some of our mid-to-upper-priced luggage.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump said he raised the levies to punish China because Beijing wanted to renegotiate critical parts of the deal. And I want to get your reaction to the president's explanation.
WILLIAMS: I mean, I get frustrated because China's not paying these tariffs. We are paying the tariffs. And that seems to be - sometimes that gets lost in the conversation. I understand the need for China to have some accountability on those type of things. It's just I wish we could have figured out a different way to do it than tariffs.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's your message, then, to this administration?
WILLIAMS: I think just to remember that those decisions affect real people in real places and real towns across the country. And we want to be supportive and want to understand the endgame. But we also have to make it through the coming year.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tiffany Williams is the co-owner of the Luggage Shop of Lubbock.
Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.