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Five ways the trade war will hurt American shoppers

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/14/2019 Abha Bhattarai
a group of people in a store: Prices on many goods imported from China, including vacuum cleaners, are likely to rise after President Trump enacted new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products. © Mario Tama/Getty Images Prices on many goods imported from China, including vacuum cleaners, are likely to rise after President Trump enacted new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

The trade war with China is heading straight for Americans’ wallets.

Shoppers can expect to soon see higher prices on everyday items like shampoo, suitcases and salmon, as the latest round of tariffs trickles down to consumers. American businesses have so far shouldered much of the burden of rising costs, but owners say they now have little choice but to pass on the 25 percent tariff to shoppers.

“Ultimately consumers are going to be very surprised," said Peter J. Bragdon, chief administrative officer for Columbia Sportswear Co. “They’ve been told they won’t see any rise in prices, and that’s just not true."

In all, American families will pay an extra $767 a year on everyday items like suitcases, cribs and clothing following Friday’s tariffs, according to a report by the Trade Partnership. If Trump makes good on his threat to tax all remaining Chinese imports, that figure could go up to about $2,389 a year for the average household. It could also lead to 2.2 million job losses and a 1 percent dip in GDP, the report said.

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Here are five areas where Americans will soon be paying more.

1. Furniture

Millions of dollars worth of cribs make their way from China to the United States every week, and almost all of them are now subject to a 25 percent tariff, according to Joseph Shamie, president of Delta Children, which sells its cribs just about everywhere, from Walmart to Restoration Hardware.

“Cribs are a necessity, and this is going to be a significant price increase for parents,” Shamie said. “We’ve absorbed much of the tariffs until now, but we obviously cannot continue to do that at 25 percent."

Other types of furniture, including beds, dining chairs and bookcases, are also becoming more expensive. At Wyckes Furniture Outlet in San Diego, manager Andre Phillips says prices have inched up since September, when the first round of tariffs took hold.

2. Household goods including toilet paper

Everyday essentials, including toilet paper, tissues and deodorant, are likely to go up in price, as the latest tariffs make their way down to American consumers. The Trump administration’s 194-page list of affected products also includes makeup, bath salts and petroleum jelly (though sunscreen is exempt).

“This round of tariffs could impact a significant number of common consumer items that are not easily replaceable,” Walmart wrote in a letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last year. "The immediate impact will be to raise prices on consumers and tax American business and manufacturers. "

The impact on prices is likely to be sudden, retailers said, particularly for low-cost items with thin profit margins.

“The categories that are covered includes thousands of products Americans buy every day, from phone chargers and cling wrap to toilet paper, toothbrushes and dog leashes," said Hun Quach, vice president of international trade at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, an industry lobbying group. “There is little to nothing retailers can do to mitigate this 25 percent increase.”

3. Hats, handbags and fleece vests -- even for dogs

Take note, Patagonia bros: Fleece vests and other types of knitwear are now subject to a 25 percent tariff, as are hats, backpacks and certain leather clothes.

At PetRageous Designs, a Massachusetts-based maker of animal accessories, executives say dog clothing like sweaters and rain coats have been among the hardest hit. Beginning this year, customers can expect to pay about 15 to 20 percent more on pajamas and outerwear for Fido.

“We just notified customers that we will be unable to absorb this combination of tariffs,” Charlie George, who handles the company’s finances. “In dollars and cents, that means a $10 dog sweater today is going to end up selling for $12.”

4. Household appliances and electric devices

It’s no secret that washing machines have become more expensive in recent months -- Americans spent an extra $1.5 billion annually on washers and dryers since Trump’s 2018 tariffs took hold, according to a recent study.

But now manufacturers say prices are also likely to rise on other household appliances, including refrigerators, air conditioners and wine chillers.

“This latest round of tariffs pulls consumers’ homes into the middle of an international trade dispute,” Jennifer Cleary, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, said in September.

Also on the list are common parts for a range of other electronic items, including stoves, vacuum cleaners and even bicycles.

“A 25 percent bump at the wholesale level could end up being a 40 or 50 percent increase by the time something gets to the sales floor,” said Adam Rossi, owner of Adam Solar Rides, which sells electric bicycles, skateboards and hoverboards in Pittsburgh.

5. Health care

Although pharmaceuticals and medical devices are exempt from the newest tariffs, consumers may still face rising health-care costs as hospitals and clinics pay more for everyday necessities, according to the American Hospital Association.

“Tariffs will increase the cost of providing health care to all Americans, hitting vulnerable communities, such as rural communities that can least afford higher costs, especially hard,” Thomas P. Nickels, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, wrote in a letter to the Trump administration in November.

Recent tariffs, he said, will cost hospitals and clinics at least $160 million a year. They will also pay more on steel and other construction items, and appliances including commercial washing machines.

Read more:

‘Are these tariffs going to happen?’ U.S. retailers fearful as they try to plan for holidays.

Consumers around the world are spending less on almost everything. Even booze.

Walmart to offer free next-day shipping beginning this week

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