Tariff-wary Hawaii retailers offer Black Friday deals early
Retail shipments for the holiday season are typically ordered well in advance so the impact of tariffs on consumer prices may be delayed.
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Black Friday sales have already begun as retailers, uncertain over the U.S. trade war with China, roll out deals ahead of possible tariffs set to take effect in December.
Retailers are poised for a more challenging holiday season, said Tina Yamaki, president and CEO of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.
“We are hoping for the best but expecting the worst,” Yamaki said. “Some retailers are already seeing a slowdown in sales. Consumers are very price sensitive and will purchase it online if they can find it cheaper than going to a brick-and-mortar store.”
Major department stores and big-box chains installed Christmas decorations and items even before Halloween and many are offering Black Friday-like deals now. Retail shipments for the holiday season are typically ordered well in advance so the impact of tariffs on consumer prices may be delayed, she said.
“Black Friday has already started. Basically it’s because
No. 1, everyone’s trying to purchase items before the Chinese tariffs take effect,” she added. “They’re trying to buy before the prices go up. We know it’s not if, it’s when, the prices are going to go higher.”
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, making or breaking the bottom line for many retailers.
Tariffs that took effect Sept. 1 were 15% on items
including apparel, footwear, televisions and Christmas decorations. Another 15% on toys, clothing, footwear and more electronics is scheduled for Dec. 15, according to the National
Tariffs of 25% that apply to some consumer goods, but mostly business-to-business parts and raw materials, have been in effect since summer 2018. Those were supposed to increase to 30% on Oct. 15, but President Donald Trump canceled the hike after reaching a partial trade deal with China. Officials are still working on the details of the deal and have not addressed the new round of December tariffs.
“Retailers are highly competitive, but the ability to compete has been challenging this year because of the uncertainty of the trade war and continued tariff escalation,” Jonathan Gold, National Retail Federation vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said in a news release on Friday.
Higher prices, especially during the holidays, would hurt low-income families
in Hawaii, said Kaimuki resident Renee Tulonghari,
an annual Black Friday shopper.
“They’ve been talking about this for awhile. It’ll change how I shop, but it won’t change when I shop,” she said. “It seriously will just mean, ‘OK I’m not going to buy that, I’ll buy something else instead.’ The
reason why tariffs won’t be good is for low-income families who may not have that option to just buy something else. What if it’s that one specific thing (they want) and it’s quadrupled, then it becomes out of reach for low-income families. Then sometimes people make bad decisions on how to get them.”
Carol Ai-May, vice president of City Mill, said the retailer has had to bear a lot of the price increases and is trying to absorb as much as it can, but this holiday season will be tough.
“We don’t want to increase the retail price for our customers and we need to stay competitive,” she said. “It is hard for us in
Hawaii especially since we have a lot of shipping costs and the tariffs.”
Contingencies are in place for City Mill and its affiliated store Simply Organized, with Black Friday “killer deals” on products that are not from China.
“There just has to be a compromise on sort of like sharing that cost,” Ai-May said. “For Black Friday, I think the retailers will be affected because customers are used to deep discounting, retailers are used to getting people in the door with the deep discounting and we’ll just see how this Christmas goes.”