The policies of Donald Trump could change the retail industry forever
#Trump #China #Protectionism #Trade
On the campaign trail, the President-elect threatened to “impose tariffs of up to 45%” on Chinese goods because under him the U.S. is “not playing games anymore.” Trump’s protectionist trade policies would, in fact, radically alter how the retail sector conducts business, by importing cheap goods from China to keep costs down.
If Trump gets his way and imposes aggressive tariffs (i.e. taxes on imports) or quotas (that limit on the number of imports of a particular good that can legally come into the States) it could have a devastating effect on retailers who have long benefited from importing cheap Chinese goods.
a bit of history: 1990's quotas phased out = Great for Retailers
Before 1994, there were import quotas that limited the quantity of apparel the U.S. could import from non-World Trade Organization countries (China didn’t become a member until 2001). These measures were basically lobbied for by legendary investor Warren Buffet and others who, after acquiring North Carolina-based apparel manufacturing plants, which were threatened by cheap Chinese labor.
Those quotas began to be phased out in 1994. Seizing an opportunity, Chinese apparel manufacturers cut deals with U.S. manufacturers to pour Chinese made goods into the states.
That’s precisely what happened, says Hedgeye Retail analyst Brian McGough in the video above. “China’s share of total U.S. apparel imports, troughed at 8% [in 2001] and went up to 39% over a decade,” he says, pulling up a chart. At the same time, import costs plunged. During the 1990s, we saw the cost of apparel come down by 5-10% per year – every year for two decades.
Winners & Losers
$XRT $KSS $JCP
This has been a boon for the weakest brands in the space, like Kohl’s (KSS) and JCPenney (JCP), McGough says, which probably wouldn’t exist today were it not for cheap Chinese imports.
As we’ve pointed out before, there’s reason to worry about Trump's potential trade policy changes. In a foreboding sign of the protectionism to come, President-elect Trump named Peter Navarro as Director of Trade and Industrial Policy. This guy literally wrote the book Death by China, describing the threat that China’s form of capitalism and militarism poses to the future of the U.S.
In short, the probability that Trump’s protectionist policies get passed isn’t zero. There is historical precedence that suggests this retail risk is serious and worth monitoring (and not the ramblings of some deranged liberal).