How Trump’s China Tariffs Would Impact What Sneakerheads Buy

Across the footwear industry, retailers and brands are bracing for a major impact if President Donald Trump’s latest proposed tariff hikes on all China imports goes into effect — and the sneaker industry is not immune to the potential fallout.

After multiple rounds of duty increases over the past several months, on May 13, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released a fourth list of Chinese imports that could receive a proposed 25% hike in duties, and footwear was on the list. The Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America said that as a result, extra annual spending on shoes could increase $131.93 per family.

In terms of sneaker prices, the FDRA estimated that (using the average price points for popular styles) performance running shoes would increase from $150 to $206; basketball shoes would go up from $130 to $178.74; and the price of canvas sneakers would rise from $49.99 to $65.57.

Despite the impact Trump’s tariffs could have on pricing, influential sneaker fans are split on how it will impact their purchasing decisions.

“I think it would deter some of my impulse buys, but it surely won’t stop me from buying sneakers in general,” YouTube sensation Mr. Foamer Simpson told FN. “I guess I’d be a little more selective, but not much.”

Sneaker lover Victoria Chiang, however, told FN she would be dissuaded from making a purchase if there was a $50 price increase. In fact, the tariffs haven’t yet been enacted and she’s already being more conscious with her purchases.

“When Jordan Brand recently raised their prices, it definitely deterred me from purchasing,” Chiang said. “For something I really love, I might not mind forking over the extra cost, but I’m definitely going to be more cognizant of how much I’m spending on sneakers and will most likely cut back.”

But heftier prices won’t keep lifestyle expert and creative director Jerome LaMaar from buying, mostly because he’s looking more in terms of quality versus quantity.

“If the shoe is unique enough, I won’t really think too hard about it,” LaMaar said. “But if it’s a common-folk moment, I may not purchase at all. I am more interested in unique pieces for my collection these days.”

Meanwhile, TV personality Tamara Dhia is less worried about how Trump’s move will impact herself and more concerned with what it will do to the greater footwear economy.

“I have the luxury of just worrying about myself when it comes to rethinking an extra $50 for a pair of sneakers, but a lot people need that money to stretch further for their children and their families. It will affect them the most and it’s really outrageous,” Dhia said.

She added, “This is a way bigger issue than just sneaker lovers having to pay more for their kicks. This tariff will essentially drive a bigger wedge between the working and higher class and affect consumerism as a whole. Trump isn’t thinking about the people out there who are already struggling to make ends meet and will now have to worry about a necessity like shoes. It’s appalling, honestly.”

This week, the FDRA published a letter endorsed by more than 170 shoe companies asking Trump to remove footwear from the tariff list.

Brands and retailers in the sneaker space who signed on include Foot Locker, Adidas America, Nike and Reebok.

“As an industry that faces a $3 billion duty bill every year, we can assure you that any increase in the cost of importing shoes has a direct impact on the American footwear consumer,” the letter read. “It is an unavoidable fact that, as prices go up at the border due to transportation costs, labor rate increases or additional duties, the consumer pays more for the product.”

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