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My take: The tariff issue is a nightmare for us, too

August 6/13, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 4

By Steven Feldman

We at FCNews have a responsibility that we take very seriously. Simply put, we believe our job is twofold: First and foremost is to help make the floor covering retailer more profitable and professional through education and information that may have an impact on their business. Second is to be that seamless conduit of information from the supplier—our advertiser—to the distributor and retailer. Sometimes we have to tackle tough issues that affect your manufacturing partners, which, in turn, affect your business.

Every day we strive to be a publication that puts retailers first. And sometimes that forces us to sacrifice our own business relationships. When I came to this magazine 12-and-a-half years ago, I said we would never do anything to benefit our manufacturing partners/advertisers at the expense of our retailers. Integrity would forever be the FCNews hallmark.

It is almost always easy to follow this blueprint. But the most controversial issue in which this country is currently immersed—tariffs on Chinese-manufactured imports—is the exception to the rule. Vinyl flooring, according to the Wall Street Journal, at $1.78 billion, is the 13th highest valued import from China. This obviously makes flooring a target as President Trump seeks to generate tariff revenue on $505 billion in exports China sends to the U.S.

Some businesses have supported the tariffs, but others say tariffs would hurt their profits or lead to higher prices for customers. If you are a domestic manufacturer, tariffs are viewed favorably. If your business model is built around imported goods, the idea of tariffs is about as welcoming as that crazy uncle at your annual picnic.

This is one of those rare occasions where we are challenged with the words we publish. We take no side in this issue. We are sympathetic to both sides. Yet any article we publish will result in backlash—either from domestic manufacturers or those suppliers that bring in product from China. We could choose to ignore this issue entirely, but that would not be fair to you.

Within the flooring industry, Mohawk Industries, which manufactures most of what it sells, recently came out in support of tariffs, citing its significant investment in domestic manufacturing. The company cites a desire for a level playing field. “Tariffs happen to be a tool that countries all over the world employ to ensure good competition,” said Brian Carson, president, North America.

We posted that story on our website on Aug. 3. Three days later, we posted the other side of the story, citing why the vast majority of flooring industry executives are against the 10% tariffs on Chinese imports. They believe the likely price hikes will hurt the industry, lead to fewer and less innovative choices for the American consumer and, ultimately, result in American job losses.

Despite trying to report both sides, we stand to lose a substantial amount of income from some of our manufacturer partners. One company, which shall remain nameless, went so far as to sever ties with our magazine after the Mohawk side was posted online, citing “a tone of bias on key industry topics that are not aligned with our direction or beliefs.” The ironic thing? This company’s CEO was among the first people quoted in the counter article posted three days later.

I find it unfortunate that any company would take exception to a magazine reporting both standpoints of an issue impacting many industries in this country. But we always strive to report on all issues, no matter how controversial, if we believe it impacts you, the retailer.