How Donald Trump’s Proposed Import Tariffs Would Affect the Workboot Industry

Workboot vendors discuss contingency plans if the White House pursues its bid to raise import taxes.


Nick Law, VP of design 
& development, Lugz
“Depending on how much the duty changes, we will have to reexamine [whether] our retail prices need to be adjusted. Dealing with these changes will take a lot of creative problem-solving and partnering with key suppliers and factories. [While] our consumer is very price-conscious, our Lugz and Emeril Lagasse slip-resistant brands will not compromise on quality.”

H. Pat Ritz, CEO, Footwear Specialties International
“We pay an 8.5 percent to 
10 percent tariff on our work products produced overseas. 
If additional tariffs are levied, we’ll need to add that to the wholesale price. We’re always looking to reduce manufacturing costs on our work shoes while maintaining our high quality 
and protective standards. It would be extremely difficult to expand our U.S.-made product level given the multitude of [overseas] subcontractors 
and suppliers necessary for workboot production.”

Wayne Lee, President, Genuine 
Grip Footwear
“Everything we buy is from China. So one option is looking for other countries [for production]. Right now, [some] companies are buying from Vietnam or Indonesia, but I don’t think that will last long since the costs there will soon be similar to China’s. 
If we have to move, we’ll need to move to the next tier of developing countries, such as Cambodia, Myanmar or Bangladesh. I’ve already sent 
a [representative] to review 
the factories in Cambodia.”

Jim Maritz, VP of marketing, 
Warson Brands
“Any border-tax adjustment or tariff would likely increase costs, which would flow through to the consumer. Since we’re in the safety market, there are limited options when it comes to [cutting costs]. Modifying components isn’t an option since there are features mandated by OSHA and ASTM, such as protective toes, metatarsal guards or electrical-hazard properties. In occupational footwear, there aren’t the extended margins that exist with fashion items.”

Lyle Klimesh, Director of sales, John Deere/McRae Footwear
“I foresee companies passing on the cost of tariffs to their retail partners, who in turn would 
pass it on to the consumer. 
[To consider] bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., the new tariffs would have to be quite high. While there are some consumers who will buy boots [because they’re U.S.-made], there are many more who buy a workboot because of its purpose and where it fits in their budget.”

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