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US-China Tariff War: Legacy US Apparel Retailers Look Vulnerable to Further Escalation

Executive Summary

  • The US-China trade conflict is intensifying. On Thursday, April 5, US President Donald Trump stated that the US is considering tariffs on a further $100 billion of imports from China.
  • The tariffs imposed by the US and China have so far been largely restricted to industrial goods, components and automobiles. Import tariffs on selected US food products by China are an exception.
  • A significant risk to US retailers’ margins is the possibility of tariffs on apparel and footwear imported from China. Some 37% of US apparel and textile imports came from China in 2017. In footwear, China accounted for 56% of US imports last year.
  • We think that the highly competitive nature of the US apparel and footwear market would force many midmarket retailers to absorb much of the additional cost if the US were to impose tariffs on apparel and footwear imports from China.

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