Why Trump’s China Tariffs Will Hit Women Consumers Hardest

With nearly three-quarters of shoe imports and more than two-fifths of clothing manufactured in China, it’s no exaggeration to say that President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on Chinese goods would significantly impact American consumers.

According to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, each family in the United States would have to spend an extra $131.93 on footwear every year if the threatened 25% levy on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods takes effect. (The trade group added that shoppers overall would pay $7 billion in additional costs annually for shoes.)

While consumers across the board may have to fork over more of their hard-earned dollars thanks to the tariffs, one group is expected to be hit the hardest: Women.

Making their cases before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, retailers including JCPenney and Macy’s argued that female consumers are unfairly targeted by the fourth tranche of tariffs.

“Though surely inadvertent, the disproportionate impact of the proposed List 4 tariffs on women is striking,” the former wrote in its letter addressed to USTR ambassador Robert Lighthizer.

Of the 19 apparel pieces the department store chain listed as “priority items” slapped with tariffs, 13 were women’s and girls’ clothing — including women’s sweaters, tank tops and denim — and another two were unisex footwear.

“Women often do the shopping for their families and so feel it acutely when the government increases taxes on basic household items,” the Plano, Texas-based company added. “Increasing taxes on boy’s shoes… and hundreds of other basic clothing items and home goods will hurt all moms who don’t have inexhaustible disposable income.”

Moreover, Macy’s noted that China is either the sole or predominant supplier for all of the 63 “priority products” on the list, including women’s shoes and boots as well as unisex sweaters.

“The imposition of tariffs on these consumer goods would constitute a regressive tax increase on hardworking American families,” it said. “Let’s not threaten a mom — juggling a job and a family — with extra taxes.”

While some companies have opted to move production outside of China, the Cincinnati-headquartered chain wrote in its letter that it was implausible to relocate “due to capacity constraints and a lack of specialized expertise” in neighboring or other foreign countries.

“[The tariffs] are particularly likely to have a negative impact on American consumers as it will be difficult, if not impossible, to shift sourcing of the above products out of China,” it added. “Certainly it will be impossible to shift sourcing of these products out of China prior to Macy’s’s customers facing the prospect of higher taxes on these products.”

Both retailers describe women as not only the primary shoppers of their households, but also their core consumers. During the public hearings in Washington, D.C., FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest along with scores of retail executives including Steven Madden Ltd. president Ed Rosenfeld and designer Marc Fisher weighed in on the repercussions of the threatened fourth tranche.

“Women’s fashion is one of the biggest parts of our industry that’s under threat because they are most predominantly in China,” Priest told FN ahead of his testimony on Wednesday. “China has provided the opportunity for fashionable women’s shoes to get to U.S. consumers at high quality and affordable prices.”

Watch FN’s interview with these shoe designers.

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