Apparel, footwear and outdoors products weren’t caught directly in the crosshairs of the escalating trade war with China on Wednesday, allowing those industries to take a “deep sigh of relief,” said Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.
However, many companies are still subject to added costs due to 25 percent tariffs on some of the equipment they use to make their products.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Wednesday released its list of about 1,300 Chinese exports, worth about $50 billion annually, which it intends to target with 25 percent tariffs. While the list doesn’t target apparel and footwear products directly, it does include the machinery and tools used to produce those products.
These tariffs could impact companies that manufacture products in the U.S. by using machines they buy from China.
“We are pleased with the administration’s decision to avoid adding tariffs to U.S. imports of apparel, footwear and travel goods from China,” said American Apparel and Footwear Association president and CEO Rick Helfenbein in a statement. “At the same time, we are concerned that the list includes tariffs on machinery used in our domestic manufacturing process. This would directly raise costs on domestic manufacturers and impact our ability to grow Made in USA.”
The specific impact on the footwear industry might be minimal, according to Andy Polk, FDRA spokesman, who said the association has looked closely at how many domestic shoe producers use manufacturing equipment from China.
“We found there was not a real significant cost impact on the proposed five HTS (harmonized tariff schedule) lines–only 5 percent of machines used by domestic shoe producers comes from China under these lines,” Polk told SGB Executive. “Most of the domestic producers we spoke with–the majority of which are our members–are buying machines from Italy and Germany.”
As SGB Executive reported last week in Outdoor, Footwear, Fashion & Retail Industries Vocalize Opposition to Tariffs, numerous companies and associations presented a unified front against tariffs on sporting goods, outdoor products, apparel and footwear through a letter-writing campaign signed by executives of top American companies.
Those same groups–including the National Retail Federation (NRF), Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA), United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and many others–are now praising their grassroots campaign that resulted in a wide variety of products being spared the new tariffs.
“I’m so proud of the effort that footwear companies, executives, employees and FDRA staff put forward to help keep footwear off President Trump’s new tariff target list,” Priest said. “The administration released a product list today of approximately $50 billion in goods that it plans to hit with additional 25 percent tariffs, but this list does not include any footwear tariff lines. Including footwear on the list was a very real and substantial threat to footwear workers and consumers across the country, and we are very pleased that we can take a deep sigh of relief.”
The White House said the tariffs are being implemented to retaliate against China for stealing intellectual property from American businesses, but many in the sporting goods, apparel, footwear and outdoors industries made clear their concerns that the tariffs would harm primarily U.S. companies and consumers without meeting its intended directive.
Not only that, but China is now expected to retaliate with tariffs of its own, which could affect U.S.-made products.
“China is going to respond, and they could include some Made in the USA outdoor products on their retaliatory effort,” OIA’s Rich Harper told SGB Executive last week. That could be a problem for members who make their products here and export to China, meaning the damage to American businesses will be as broad as it is deep.
But the fact that today’s announcement about new tariffs included items such as industrial robots and telecommunications equipment and not sports equipment was a win for groups like SFIA, whose members could have seen costs rise dramatically on many of the products they import, distribute and sell across the U.S.
“SFIA is pleased that sports and fitness products were not targeted for additional tariffs, as part of the USTR actions stemming from their Section 301 investigation,” said Bill Sells, SFIA’s senior vice president of government and public affairs. “SFIA is a strong supporter of free and fair trade, which operates best under limited barriers and open markets. We hope the U.S. and China can find mutually agreeable solutions to our trade imbalance that do not increase costs for American consumers.”
The fight to protect apparel, footwear and outdoors products isn’t over. With back-and-forth tariffs being added by both China and the U.S., more fallout is likely to come. And it still doesn’t address how to punish China for stealing intellectual property from American businesses.
“While we are pleased that outdoor products were left off the initial list of products that will be subject to a 25 percent tariff, we will continue to make the case that imposing these retaliatory tariffs on goods like apparel, footwear and travel goods that are already overtaxed is the wrong way to address China’s IP practices,” said Alex Boian, OIA’s vice president of government affairs. “We again call on the administration to pursue a more narrow, targeted approach, one that addresses legitimate concerns about protecting U.S. intellectual property without raising costs for American consumers.”
Author: Eric Smith
Burton Snowboards is eliminating all of their independent sales reps in the US market, in a move to bring all of their sales & marketing efforts in-house, among other organizational maneuvers.
John Lacy, President of Burton Snowboards describes the transition in a memo distributed 16 April to Burton employees and independent reps:
Today, we’re announcing some strategic changes to how we run the Americas region. As a refresh, the Americas region includes Canada, the U.S. and South America, which Elysa Walk oversees as our General Manager of Americas. So here’s what’s happening. In the U.S., Burton is evolving to a territory structure to better focus on the customer’s experience with the brand, regardless of channel. What this means is that instead of having independent sales organizations in the U.S., we will move to an in-house territory structure that will be responsible for all activities in that geographic region – from DTC, digital and wholesale channels to resort sales and regional marketing. Moving forward, North America will have five regions, which will each be managed by in-house territory business management structures.
So why are we doing this? Simply put, it’s all about our customers. We want Burton customers to have the same incredible experience with the brand no matter where they shop – on Burton.com, at their local specialty shop or at one of our flagship or partner stores. Having a territory structure where each U.S. region is responsible for providing the best customer experience across all channels is the way to make this happen. With customers constantly changing how, when and why they shop, this is a move that many brands in our industry are making, and we’ve been working towards it for some time now.
For those of you who have been here for a few years, this structure may sound familiar. That’s because we’ve already implemented this model in Canada, as well as in different markets in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Zurich is a great example. We now have a Burton ‘Hub’ in Zurich where we have a retail store, sales showroom and in-house sales/marketing staff on the ground there. Same with Montreal and Munich – which are both on track to open this fall and will feature a retail store, showroom and regional sales/marketing all under one roof. We’ve seen our brand elevated in regions that have this structure, and now is the time to make it happen in the Americas.
As always, these changes impact people – primarily our independent sales reps in the U.S., and we don’t want to minimize that. On behalf of the entire Burton family, I want to thank our U.S. independent sales organizations for their dedication to the brand and snowboarding over the years. We wish all of our independent sales reps the best of luck as they pursue new opportunities – including some newly created in-house positions.
Here at HQ, we’re adding a number of jobs to support this new Americas territory business model. Similar to how we run our international regions in Europe and Asia-Pacific, the Americas will now have its own regional marketing department that will closely align with our Global Marketing Department headed by Anne-Marie Dacyshyn. Pierre Ricard is assuming a new role as the VP of Sales and Marketing in the Americas and will continue to report to Elysa.
I also want to highlight two new positions that long-time Sales department employees are shifting to at Burton HQ. Beth Steele will take on a new role as our first VP of Global Digital Wholesale. Reporting to Elysa, Beth will work with the Americas, Europe and APAC regions to ensure a premium brand presence online and drive eComm sales for our wholesalers. Also taking on a new role is Mark Wakeling, who will now oversee the anon brand worldwide, including strategy, product, sales and marketing as the new Global anon Business Unit Director.
During tomorrow’s company meeting, we’ll get into more details on our vision for the new Americas structure, and we’ll also spend time talking about our updated Trail Map. After such an incredible year, we couldn’t be more excited for the future of Burton, and we look forward to sharing additional updates with you all tomorrow.
In a follow-up email memo (also distributed to retailers) Elysa Walk, Burton’s GM of the Americas region, sheds more light on the organizational changes designed to help Burton “better focus on the success of our premium retailers and customer sell-through”:
As a part of our overall structure change, Burton will be adding horsepower to support the growth and complexities of premium accounts, eCommerce and resorts, which we view as our key opportunity areas. Territory teams will focus on driving sell-through in-store and online in all channels with more marketing activations, visual merchandising, digital support and sell-through analytics to manage consumer response. We will continue to elevate premium retailers through our Full Service Dealer program, invest in our DTC business to build the brand, support key retailers and resorts both in-store and online, while moving away from excess dealers to limit distribution and liquidation.
What does this all mean for you? Or for your local snowboard shop?
Of course it’s too early to say. But it probably comes as a surprise to many independent retailers who are already feeling the pinch from Burton’s increasing direct-to-consumer sales efforts. It’s fair for them to be skeptical that their best interests are being kept in mind. We understand that at least some of the reps have already transitioned to in-house positions, but that is almost certainly not the case for all of their independent reps, many of whom have promoted Burton for years.
Most of Burton’s other regions, globally, already operate on the “territorial” in-house structure, and Burton recently transitioned the Canadian market from independent reps to in-house, so it’s been several years in the making in order for the company, globally, to have consistent management and (ideally) provide consistent service and experience across regions.
Until now, Burton has used a combination of in-house (for large box retail accounts) and independent brand representatives (for smaller retail accounts). The change will align their management structure within the US market and globally.
Trying to read between the lines of these memos, along with Burton’s several-years-in-the-making push and promotion of their direct to consumer channel (i.e., Burton.com, which is essentially in competition with their licensed retailers a/k/a your local board shop), it sounds like we might expect to see some reduction in their retail accounts, too. How this might happen remains to be seen. Of course, Burton may take a proactive and bottom-line oriented approach, and simply neglect to renew certain accounts. Or there may be some natural attrition as brand/retailer relationships — to which the independent reps are integral — falter, and the shops don’t re-up. Or maybe some of both.
In any case, it seems like Burton is focused on their DTC channels, their flagship locations, even if that comes at the expense of the independent retailers who helped build the brand into the global leader that it is, today.
Sustainability is more deeply rooted in the outdoor industry than in almost any other industry. No matter whether it is about production, environmentally friendly materials or social commitment and corporate social responsibility (CSR). For ISPO.com, brands with a sustainable brand identity explain how they integrate the topic into their communication strategies.
Outdoor brands with a focus on sustainability have to do more than other brands in their communication.
They not only have to show that they have the right fit, functionality and design, but also bring their environmentally friendly production methods and materials as well as their social standards closer to the customer.
ISPO.com talked to leading sustainable companies about their state of the art communication tools when it comes to corporate responsibility:
Relatively new to the market British backpack specialist Millican for example, still counts on the early adopters of all ages, who they reach mainly online. “The right type of person, the advocates in this world, who will be the ones who spread the word beyond what we can do, they are the ones who will find us, in the way that suits them, invariably online”, says Millican Founder Jorrit Jorritsma.
Meanwhile well and widely established Klean Kanteen, who is in market since 14 years, counts on the partnership with vendors, as well as the company website, social media and hangtags right on and inside their products.
Henry Hoogenveen, European Brand Manager at Klean Kanteen says: “It’s not only on the retail store. There are a lot of consumers, which go online for example, to try to find out what kind of brand Klean Kanteen is, more and more nowadays”.
Finding a compromise between getting the customer’s attention in the shop and not producing more trash with hangtags or special POP is a big challenge. “We have a special POP program, all made of wood. This POP can show how we start from a plastic bottle to the fabrics we use in our outerwear. It’s the kind of POP that can explain who we are, why we are different and how our products are made”, says Marie Cadars, PR & Communications Coordinator at Picture Organic Clothing.
“We try to do it with a minimum of hang tags for example. You don’t want to put too many hangtags because, again, it ends up in the landfill”, adds Henry Hoogenveen, European Brand Manager at Klean Kanteen.
“The younger generation gathers information elsewhere, they don’t need a specialty retailer, to tell them about the products. They get their knowledge online and they might as well have a headstart compared to the shop staff they are talking to,” says Timo Perschke, Founder at Pyua Outerwear.
“On our website we can have information about our products, obviously that’s important. As a consumer you can then read a little bit more, if something is a particular area of interest, if you didn’t know for example that we are fairly traded, you can ask more questions (…)”, says Helen Howard, Marketing Responsible at Páramo Clothing. When it comes to how consumers end up on the websites, communication professionals agree on classic communication tools, such as print advertising, PR and foremost social media like Facebook and Instagram.
Most sustainable brands agree on the huge importance of the shop staff being on board with promoting their brand. Being pricier than the non-sustainable competitors, the consumer education in the shop needs to go way beyond the hangtag information to tip the balance in favor of a sustainable brand. The education process goes from training manuals, which just get shipped to the retailer in the hopes they educate their staff themselves and workshops with brand representatives to more emotional incentives that tell the brand’s mission.
In general, Helen Howards, Marketing Responsible at Páramo Clothing says they choose their retailers very carefully, in the sense that if retailers, who have very good staff trainings and they engage with their customers very well, they will be very knowledgeable and so their customers know, that they can rely on those retailers to give their customers good advise and be listened to.
“A consumer will walk up to a wall of bags and they will simply make the first decision based on the visual appeal. If you’ve liked a bag from the distance, once you get closer, you will feel the fabrics and you need to check out the details of the product itself from a functional point of view. Once all of those boxes are tagged and you are still interested in the product, I think that’s where the messaging comes in” says Jorrit Jorritsma, Founder of Millican backpacks.
“No one hits a store to buy a sustainable skiing jacket. Retailers don’t need to sell sustainable jackets in the first place, because the consumer isn’t necessarily looking for those types of jackets. The consumer wants a jacket, which makes him look better than before,” says Timo Perschke, Founder at Pyua Outerwear.
Now more than ever before, outdoor enthusiasts are proven to prefer sustainable products, if they are equal or better in look and functionality, even though slightly more expensive. Timo Perschke claims that so called “Dieselgate” for instance, helped Pyua significantly, because people are even more aware that climate change is real and environmental protection is in their minds.
Therefore it only depends to choose the right channel(s) to reach the target group, in order to communicate effectively and grow sales.
Author: Iris Hrabe-Ritzert
Among a certain set of eco-conscious city dwellers, electric bikes are all the rage. These motor-assisted, battery-powered bikes are increasing in numbers on many city streets, as people discover how fun, practical, and affordable this alternative form of transportation is.
Electric bikes — or “ebikes” as they are often called — are part of a larger movement that is encouraging people to go “car-less,” particularly for the 40 percent of car trips that are under two miles. After all, in a big city, owning a car can be a real pain, with traffic congestion, parking woes, and mounting expenses. But of course, not everyone wants to work up a sweat muscling a bicycle around town. That’s where ebikes come in. They offer the freedom of a bicycle, with the assistance of a powerful motor and battery. And the best part is you can still haul your groceries, packages, and other equipment without having the added weight slow you down or make you work harder.
Fans of ebikes are quick to sing their praises. “People and companies want to reduce their carbon footprint, and the stress and time associated with driving,” explains Ty Collins, cofounder of Rad Power Bikes. And indeed, there are real environmental advantages to ebikes. They only emit 22 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. A car, by contrast, belches out 271 grams per kilometer. Plus, ebikes can be charged using alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.
They’re also quite practical for many commuters. You can weave in and out of immobile cars on congested roads, using bike lanes and paths, shoulders, and so on. You can flatten hills with the assistance of the electric motor. And parking is free and a breeze. Just lock up your bike and go.
But it’s the affordability that may be the clincher for many people living in big cities. Putting gas in your car will cost you roughly $2 for every 25 miles you drive. But with an ebike, you can travel the same distance for only eight cents. Plus, you’ll never have to go to the DMV or pay for pricey maintenance and upkeep.
It’s not just commuters, though. Many businesses are also getting in on the ebike action. With increasing fuel costs, lack of parking, rising consumer expectations for delivery services, and pressure to improve sustainability, many businesses are turning to ebikes to boost their bottom lines and improve their services.
“Compared to traditional cargo vehicles, ebikes are inexpensive to own and operate, and are vastly more efficient, nimble, and green,” explains Collins. In fact, UPS is already experimenting with electric bikes.
Of course, not everyone is a believer. Many justifiably scoff at the idea of electric-powered bicycles soon dominating American cities.
For his part, Collins encourages the skeptics to give ebikes a try. They’ll quickly realize how easy, enjoyable, and efficient electric bikes are, he says. “There is a real freedom gained by riding ebikes — even more so than driving and especially compared to relying on public transportation,” he adds.
Will we actually see electric bikes replace cars in big cities? Well, for some people, sure. “Electric cargo bikes are already replacing personal and commercial vehicles, especially in urban areas,” explains Collins.
However, America is still very much dominated by its car culture. And let’s be honest: Most Americans would balk at the idea of replacing their beloved car with a bike of any sort. So no, for most people, ebikes will not replace cars. But their future remains bright indeed.