U.S.-China Trade War Hits a New Phase, and a Boot Maker Trembles – The New York Times

Laying off workers or trimming salaries would help. But with inflation in China already eating away at earnings, Mr. Lee said he had not been able to bring himself to that.

The company could try to sell its boots in Europe, but who would buy them? “There isn’t that culture around cowboy boots in other countries,” Mr. Xu said.

Yong Du could try producing more of its shoes outside of China — in Southeast Asia, for instance. Mr. Lee has helped run factories in Vietnam before, though, and the language barrier caused major problems. “Vietnam isn’t so simple,” he said.

It would also be tough, Mr. Lee said, to find enough workers in Southeast Asia who are up to snuff. Many of the company’s staff in Dongguan have more than a decade of shoemaking experience, he said.

Mostly, therefore, Yong Du Shoes will have to wait.

In half a year or so, when the company’s American partners release new models of boots, they might be able charge higher prices to help offset the tariffs, Mr. Lee said. Even then, the companies will not likely want to raise prices on older models that are consistently strong sellers.

Mr. Lee said that Yong Du and its American partners had helped each other through tough times before. “We’ve worked together long enough that everybody is very familiar with each other,” he said.

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