The combination of inflation and punishing footwear tariffs are spurring industry leaders to ramp up their calls for change.
In an open letter to the Biden administration’s council of economic advisors, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) Matt Priest urged the council to advise the president to strike down the 301 tariffs on consumer goods that are causing prices on certain items (like shoes) to spike.
“Some of the highest tariff rates in the entire U.S. Tariff Code fall on low value shoes and children’s shoes, hitting working class families at a time when they can least afford it,” Priest wrote in a Thursday letter, addressed to Jared Bernstein, a member of the council of economic advisors. “The 301 tariffs significantly increased the burden on families – adding more hidden taxes on top of what individuals and families already pay.”
For the last few months, the footwear and fashion industries have been lobbying the Biden administration to roll back many restrictive tariffs introduced by the Trump Administration, including parts of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. In August, FDRA joined with the American Apparel and Footwear Association and several other retail organizations to file a “friend of the court” amicus brief in the U.S. Court of International Trade, arguing that the List 3 and List 4A tariffs imposed by Trump under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 were unlawful. In October, FDRA sent a letter to the The White House asking to eliminate tariffs on children’s footwear and give parents a break amid rapidly rising prices on consumer goods.
Footwear prices are currently seeing record-high levels of inflation, with shoes prices growing 6% in January year over year, according to data from the FDRA. This marked one of the fastest gains in decades. Men’s footwear was up 5.1%, women’s was up 6.8% and kids’ was up 6.3%.
According to the FDRA, the January surge in prices suggests that that footwear prices will continue to rise throughout 2022.
“Big box retailers and national chains are having to pass along the added costs to their consumers,” Priest wrote in the letter. “Eliminating the 301 tariffs on shoes would reduce costs for American individuals and families and help address rising inflation.”
Despite the price hikes, consumer spending hasn’t slowed. In 2021, the American footwear industry broke annual records at over $100 billion reached in total spending. Consumer spending on footwear jumped 20.5% in December of 2021 compared to December of 2020. Overall, footwear sales in December pushed full-year footwear spending to hit a 29.8% gain in 2021.