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home : most recent : steuben November 15, 2018

10/6/2018 4:10:00 PM
Tariffs hitting home in Steuben County, says some local businesses

Lisa Esquivel Long, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Sandy Sanborn spent part of the day Sept. 24 repricing the grills at his furniture store. It wasn’t because he wanted to make more money. He was just keeping up with the China-U.S. tariff increases that had vendors telling him they were increasing their prices.

That was the day President Trump imposed higher tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. China struck back by doing the same to $60 billion of U.S. products, the Associated Press reported.

Jim Getz, 1st District Steuben County Council member, works in steel sales and has been in the steel business for about 36 years. Steel prices started to inch up slowly when Trump was elected, but that incremental change has now gone up to 25 percent, Getz said.

“So domestic producers have been able to increase their prices as a result of the steel tariffs,” he said.

Being in the steel industry, Getz sees the increases from a different perspective. In China, for instance, the government owns the steel mills and can manipulate the industry and the currency, he said.

Northeast Indiana consumers will likely see price jumps in the RV industry, with several manufacturers in the area, as well as in the trucks made at General Motors’ Fort Wayne Truck Assembly Plant, Getz said.

“Everything you can think of is made from big steel,” Getz said.

The tariffs are good for Fort Wayne-based Steel Dynamics Inc., which has a steel mill in Butler, he said.

“Some say it’s a job but (the tariffs) are putting more people to work,” Getz said.

He has discussed in county council meetings the increased steel prices during talk of a new Steuben County Courthouse.

“If we had done it two to three years ago it would be more economical,” he said.

For Sanborn and his wife, Jenny, the tariffs mean price increases that are affecting a wide variety of the 55 lines they carry at Sanborn’s For Your Home, 1990 W. Maumee St., including beds, patio furniture, grills and even flooring. The prices will be passed along to the buyers, he said.

“It’s a tax on the consumer because they are the ones who are going to foot the bill,” Sanborn said.

Prices on some items in his store, including grills, have already been adjusted.

“On Monday morning this was $3,999,” he said of one grill. “Now it’s $4,398.99.”

Looking through flooring samples, he said the price increased from $3.49 a square foot to $3.85.

“We’re not adding anything (profitwise) to it,” he said. “We’re adding the 10 percent the vendors are increasing.”

Already customers were giving him “pushback,” he said Sept. 25.

He wants customers to understand they’ll be seeing price increases not just at his store but at online retailers and multi-store chains.

Sanborn had heard chatter about the possible trade dispute affecting furniture imported to the U.S. from China. However, he didn’t give it much thought until a couple of weeks ago when the letters from his suppliers stared to flood into his mailbox.

“In the last 10 days I have gotten over 32 letters from our different vendors for a minimum of a 10 percent increase,” he said.

A letter from Saber, one of the suppliers of grills that the Sanborns sell, announced a 10 percent increase in prices of imported grills beginning next week. However, it also warns that this may not be the end.

“This could escalate to 25 percent on or before January 1, 2019 if negotiations are unsuccessful,” a copy of the letter given to The Herald Republican, Business Weekly’s sister publication, says, which also states, “Today over 90 person of all grills sold in the United States are made in China.”

Southern Motion, which supplies manual and power recliners, said it was going through rounds 3 and 4 of tariffs after a 25 percent increase in the cost of its motors in August. Therefore, Sanborn would be seeing a 5 percent surcharge on each invoice beginning Sept. 24.

Sanborn doesn’t believe Americans realize the amount of items being sourced from China. The price increases come after a turnaround from the Great Recession.

“We’ve been in a recovery place since ’08,” he said, “and we’ve been getting back to record levels. This is going to put a damper on consumer spending.”

Related Stories:
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• Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar: Trumps needs to seek strategic trade policy
• RV industry looks past slight summer slip
• Grain storage space feeling the squeeze because of high yields, tariffs
• Hoosier soybean farmers to see huge payout from federal government because of tariffs
• OPINION: The causes and effects of this growing trade war
• Tariffs source of Indiana voter interest in state's nine US House races

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