How the Footwear Industry Is Reacting to the 2018 Midterm Election Results

This story has been updated with comments from Kenneth Cole.

Tuesday’s midterm election, which for the most part turned out as predicted, helped quell some of the uncertainty that has plagued the industry since the 2016 presidential election. As Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, the landscape in Washington, D.C., will change — but it’s unclear just how much.

“[It’s] great to see America united — if not on what we all believe, but on the importance of exercising their voice with the extraordinary turnout from the election,” said designer Kenneth Cole. “There’s now a semblance of a balance of power, which makes our system work with an element of checks and balances. That being said, I still come away bewildered by the notion of this other America which I don’t understand.”

Perhaps most relevant to footwear is the issue of trade — a subject often overshadowed by the more talked-about policies of health care, immigration, gun control and the U.S. economy.

“The No. 1 question everyone is asking is if last night’s election results will end the trade war with China,” said Steve Lamar, EVP of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “Sadly, they won’t.”

However, the outcome sparked some optimism among industry leaders.

“I’m excited because it’s a blank slate,” said Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America. “We pound pavement on the Hill and introduce the new members to footwear — the 360,000 jobs that are in the industry and the $3 billion in duties on footwear that American consumers ultimately pay. For us, it’s the opportunity to educate people.”

New leadership will emerge in the House Ways and Means Committee, which governs tariffs, trade remedy measures and free-trade agreements. It is expected that ranking member Richard Neal, the Democratic representative from Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District, will take on the position.

Additionally, the Trump administration last month announced its intention to negotiate trade agreements with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom — the latest move in President Donald Trump’s effort to reshape trade policy in the U.S.

Trump lauded the election as a “tremendous success.”

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