Columbia Sportswear CEO Doesn’t See China as a ‘Bad Entity’

Columbia Sportswear may have to raise prices for consumers due to impending tariffs, but CEO Tim Boyle isn’t laying the blame on China.

In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” the executive addressed the operational impact of President Donald Trump’s 15% levy on $300 billion worth of goods, which is set to take effect on Sept. 1 for the first round, with the second group due on Dec. 15. Experts say it will affect many consumer goods including mobile phones, laptops and toys, as well as footwear and apparel.

The United States and China have been embroiled in a trade war for more than a year, but Boyle told the network yesterday that he disagrees with Trump’s portrait of China as a “big, bad market.”

“I don’t see the issues that the president talks about,” Boyle said. “I don’t see why the Chinese consumer needs to be focused on as a bad person or a bad entity. We’ve had great relationships with China.”

The sportswear chief added that these new tariffs could even make certain product categories unavailable to retailers — particularly because many materials that are necessary for production are sourced through China and cannot be obtained in the U.S.

Last year, ahead of the holiday shopping season, Columbia already began indicating the need to prepare for cost increases within its supply chain and product line.

“I don’t think we can expect that the U.S. consumer has the unlimited ability to continue to buy products at any price,” Boyle added in yesterday’s CNBC interview.

Columbia joins a growing list of retailers that have spoken out against the import tax increase — among them Designer Brands Inc., Tommy Hilfiger parent PVH Corp. and Caleres Inc., which this week alone reacted in earnings conference calls to Trump’s recently announced hike from 10% to 15% on the fourth tranche of tariffs.

According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, 41% of clothing, 72% of shoes and 84% of accessories sold in the U.S. originates from China. With the 15% levy, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America estimates that consumers will pay roughly $4 billion more every year for shoes.

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