Tariffs hurt retailers, HFA member tells NPR

Furniture retailers who import products from China will have to pass additional costs to customers, Jim Kittle said in an interview broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The U.S. raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, including furniture, from 10 percent to 25 percent at midnight.

Kittle, chairman of Home Furnishings Association member Kittle’s Furniture in Indianapolis, Ind., said he and his vendors absorbed most of the 10 percent import tax imposed last year, but 25 percent is too much.

“Right now, retailers are at best marginally profitable, and furniture is no different,” he told NPR.

About 30 percent of the furniture Kittle’s sells is made in China, Kittle said, and Chinese-made components also will be affected, adding to the cost of other goods.

There’s another consideration. Tariffs, and retaliatory actions taken by China, hurt other parts of Indiana’s economy, from agriculture to auto manufacturing. Kittle said this will have a secondary effect on people in communities where Kittle’s does business.

“If they don’t have any money even to buy a tractor, they’re not going to buy furniture,” he told NPR.

Another HFA member, Fran O’Brien of The Furniture Market in Modesto, Calif., has been frank with his customers about the cost of import taxes.

He’s “been charging a separate line item for the tariff,” he said this week. “I do educate the people on the facts. China does not pay any tariffs; the last person to buy the product pays all the tariffs. That means you, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer.  I have not had anybody refuse to pay the tariff; they all have heard about them.  And now they know how it affects them.”

HFA belongs to Americans for Free Trade, a large business coalition that opposes tariffs.

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