By Megan Valle and Wilko Martínez-Cachero
Suffolk County’s boating industry is beginning to feel the effects of President Trump’s latest round of tariffs that went into effect on Monday, September 24th. 5,745 items, including a vast array of marine products, are all being impacted by this round of tariffs. Sea Eagle Boats, a small business on Long Island, is one of the boating stores that will have to raise prices and risk losing customers.
“Our average cost of inventory will have to go up,” John Hoge, co-owner of Sea Eagle Boats, said.
The small kayak store in Port Jefferson obtains most of its shipping materials from China. The store ordered eight containers prior to the introduction of the tariffs that will now be subject to a 10 percent price increase.
“Before too long, we’re going to have to raise our prices 10 percent or 25 percent if that second leg [of the tariffs] goes through,” he said.
Additional boating stores on Long Island are also beginning to see the negative impacts. Bridge Marina and Bridge Marine Sales, a family-owned-and-operated marina in Bayville, was hit with the tariffs and is now losing customers after increasing prices.
“We had customers that didn’t want to pay the increase,” Jason Rauch, manager at Bridge Marina and Bridge Marine Sales, said. “So we had to take a hit on some of these items.”
Others, like Sailaction, a sailboat and kayak shop on Long Island, have yet to experience the effects of the tariffs. “It’s too early to tell,” Joe Farrell, owner of Sailaction said.
Farrell needs more time to figure out how to respond to the tariffs considering most of his items are American made.
665 industries in New York are affected by the tariffs, according to a September 8th analysis by Axios. The United States has imposed tariffs on about half of all Chinese goods coming into the country.
“I have to say that a lot of what he’s doing is very, very destructive to the United States,” Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky, an economics professor at Columbia University, said. “Trump is thinking that, by putting these tariffs, there will be some economic gain, but he’s not thinking of the retaliation or secondary moves which includes the positions of consumers and small businesses.”
Consumer spending represents 70 percent of Long Island’s economic activity, according to the Commerce Department. The tariffs can negatively impact the Suffolk County economy if consumers pull back on spending because of increased prices.
“We’re expecting some items not to be sold as quickly or at all,” Stephen Cheung, President of the World Trade Center Los Angeles, said. “With that, [companies] are going to have extra inventory. Excess inventory means that there’s no need to re-order, which means less manufacturing.”
Less manufacturing will up the shipping costs from China, Cheung says. Customers will have to indirectly pay for the costs in their purchases.
President Trump has been progressively combating China’s imbalanced trade practices since the beginning of the year and will continue to do so through 2019. He hopes that China will negotiate a favorable trade deal, but this has only resulted in China retaliating against the U.S. boating industry.
In the meantime, Thomas Cook, managing director at Blue Tiger International and the National Institute for World Trade, said there are a number of things companies can do to mitigate that expense.
“If a company is unable to absorb that cost and pass that cost onto its end buyer, then you’re going to have that exposure where companies will start to let people go or reduce the size of their company or get out of the whole concept of importing because it’ll be too expensive,” Cook said.
Laying off workers is the last thing any business owner wants to do. Instead, John Hoge and Jason Rauch will begrudgingly raise prices and make product less affordable for their customers.