Shoe Industry Calls for White House to Freeze Duties Amid Coronavirus Crisis

In a move intended to mitigate the possibly devastating impacts of the coronavirus, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America sent a letter to the White House today, encouraging a freeze on shoe duties to help offset the escalating effects that the virus is having on companies and workers.

In the letter addressed to Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest wrote that now is “the right time” to implement a freeze on duties to reduce higher costs for American families. “In 2020, we estimate shoe duties will increase costs at the cash register by nearly $12 billion just on shoes alone. This is a huge cost on a product that every child and family needs,” he wrote, reminding Kudlow that the White House has the power to enact duty freezes on its own and does not need congressional approval.

“It could also choose to temporarily lower duty rates,” the letter added. “This would allow more Americans to keep money in their pocket and increase consumer confidence.”

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FDRA said it calculated its $12 billion figure based on how much the industry is estimated to pay in footwear tariffs in 2020, which then results in steeper costs after distribution, warehouse, marketing, and retail labor costs are added on before products reach the consumer.

Priest applauded the White House’s proposal to slash the payroll tax, a step the FDRA believes would provide an additional $250 each month to shoe store employees across the country in a time of mounting need. President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on Monday that he will be meeting with Senate and House Republicans today to discuss “a possible tax relief measure” to provide “a timely and effective response to the coronavirus.”

“We support your payroll tax reduction, but it is not enough,” Priest wrote. “We need to find more ways to lower costs on consumers to increase consumer confidence and keep shoe retail jobs robust.”

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