QT was printing on cotton that was grown and woven in China. Even so, maintaining a U.S. plant was expensive, and the technology wasn’t top quality. Gamache moved production to Korea and Pakistan, where flatbed fabric printers produce higher quality designs. The company thrived.
And last year, QT became the first quilting fabric company to print all its fabric digitally. “We went to China because they have a plant there that’s invested in high-speed machines that can produce 18 million yards a year,” Gamache says.
Digital fabric printing offers the promise of a profitable future for QT, but Gamache has some new cause for concern.
In March 2018, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from China. In July, an additional $34 billion worth of goods was added. Recently, the administration announced a third round on $200 billion more in Chinese goods and bumped the tariff from 10 to 25 percent. The new list includes a large quantity of craft supplies, such as cotton fabric.
Craft-industry businesses – from large chain stores to midsize companies to solo entrepreneurs – now have to contend with the likelihood of a price increase soon on supplies imported from China. Here’s what you should know:
What is a tariff, and what actions are businesses taking?
Tariffs are taxes on imported goods that are collected by customs officials on behalf of the government imposing them. With the exception of agriculture, tariffs have been very low or at zero globally over the last few decades because of free-trade agreements. The United States now is in a trade war with China that could escalate.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative is holding a public comment period on the third round of tariffs through Sept. 6. (Leave a commentand read the comments that have already been filed.) In the past, tariffs have been implemented a few weeks after a public comment period has ended.
Large chain stores, including Ohio-based JOANN, carry a wide assortment of craft supplies imported from China and would be particularly hard hit by the tariffs.
“Nearly 450 of the listed codes would affect JOANN products, with the greatest area of impact related to our fabrics,” the company says in a statement. The store would pass the 25 percent price increase onto its customers. The timing comes right before Halloween, usually the company’s most significant sales period each year.
These craft supplies are on the tariff list
Fleece, faux fur, velour, woven cotton fabric, silk, dye, pigments used to make paint, ink, thread, polyester and nylon fabric, yarn, glass and metal beads, glue, knit fabric, paper-cutting machines, paper products, and washi and other paper tapes.
See the full list of tariffed items here.
(The majority of premium quilting cotton sold in independent quilt shops are imported from Korea and Japan and will not be tariffed.)
Why not source domestically?
Hundreds of JOANN customers took to the company’s Facebook page saying that terming a tariff on imported goods a “Made in America Tax” was misleading. Many said that JOANN should stop sourcing merchandise overseas.
“Setup shop in Detroit, invest in your own fabric plant here!” wrote one commenter. “Tons of available real estate & people looking for jobs. Stop looking for who can do it the cheapest & buy in the US.” Another wrote, “Why not buy American? Stop using overseas vendors to provide and produce your products. Support small American businesses. Help them set up business to produce the things you sell. Win/Win right?”
But in its statement JOANN says, “There is no domestic source for many of the products affected by the proposed tariffs, and there is no possibility that a domestic source will develop. … And in fact, many products we sell have never actually had an American source.”
Midsize craft companies report a similar impossibility when it comes to sourcing domestically. Jacquard Inkjet Fabric Systems, a leading provider of digital textile printing solutions based in Healdsburg, California, imports silk from China.
“It’s Chinese silk. That’s what it’s called. That’s where it comes from. That’s where you get the good stuff,” says Hunter Ellis, Jacquard Inkjet’s president.
Ellis also points out that a different administration could lift the tariffs in the future, leaving domestic manufacturers overly vulnerable to market forces.
For solo entrepreneurs who use silk to create products, the price increase from the tariffs could prove difficult to manage.
“I am still in the process of finding out how buying silk from China is going to affect me,” says artist Shauna Blake, who founded her hand-painted silk ribbon and scarf business, Quintessence Silk Art, in 2009.
“One thing that’s frustrating is that silk fabric is not made in the U.S., so it seems unfair for them to tariff silk fabric since all the companies who sell in the U.S. have to import the fabric.”
Blake says if the price of silk goes up, she will be forced to raise her prices, something she’s hesitant to do.
Hand-dyed silk scarf by Shauna Blake of Quintessence Silk Art.
Photo courtesy of Shauna Blake
Hand-dyed silk wrap bracelet by Shauna Blake of Quintessence Silk Art.
Photo courtesy of Shauna Blake
Hand-dyed silk wrap bracelet by Shauna Blake of Quintessence Silk Art.
Photo courtesy of Shauna Blake
Manufacturing likely will shift to other countries
According to many executives, rather than encouraging domestic manufacturing, the tariffs will cause companies to simply shift their sourcing from China to other countries, David Goff, the vice president of Dharma Trading Co., a leading seller of fiber arts supplies based in San Rafael, California, says at least 30 percent of his company’s merchandise will be affected by the tariffs. “What’s going to happen is people will shift their business to India and Pakistan, and that will happen long before anyone will shift their business to the United States because simply put, it’s so much more expensive to manufacture in the U.S.”
Asher Katz, president of Jacquard, a manufacturer of paints, inks and dyes and parent company of Jacquard Inkjet, concurs.
“It’s not going to benefit Americans at all. It’s going to have exactly the opposite effect. So it’s really a political optics move I think, and the real winner is going to be India in a major way.”
Katz says American consumers can only tolerate a small price increase before they begin looking for alternatives. “At a certain point, a hobbyist is only willing to pay a certain amount for a bottle of paint.”
A fabric company executive who wished to remain anonymous said that sourcing fleece in the U.S. is simply not cost effective. “There are two [domestic] factories that used to make it; one of them is still in business and that commodity they make in China. The little bit that they make here is three times my cost so if I had to buy it here, I would have to charge my customers $10 instead of $4.25. Am I in business at $10 where it used to be $4.25? I don’t think so.”
Uncertainty and a heated political climate
For many companies, the tariff issue is creating a sense of uncertainty that’s making it difficult to conduct business as usual or plan for the future.
Several craft companies sent emails to wholesale and retail customers warning of possible price increases, but this can also prompt a backlash. Goff at Dharma Trading sent out an email that he says was meant to be informative. “We wanted to help connect the dots so that people who are watching the news are thinking about this in terms of how it’s going to affect you, because it is. It’s not just international politics. The price of everything you buy is probably going to go up in the next six to nine months.”
The company received a handful of replies that “took that email very politically as if we were bashing the administration and saying they were doing everything wrong,” Goff says. “Things are so politically charged right now, so polarized, but that wasn’t our intent.”
If the petitions to get craft supplies taken off the tariff list aren’t successful, JOANN will apply for a company exemption once the tariffs are finalized, according to a company spokesperson. The mounting backlog of exemption requests could mean a long wait before its waiver is processed. But if approved, the craft chain could come away with a distinct competitive advantage over smaller businesses with less bandwidth to lobby D.C. and that would remain saddled with the 25 percent tariff.
Gamache at QT Fabrics says he has a plan if the company has to move out of China, but he’s definitely feeling uncertain. “Those large corporations, they can afford it. At 10 percent, maybe we could have absorbed it, but 25 percent? We can’t eat it all. We’d have to pass it on to our customers. It’s nervous times for us right now. We’re hoping that it won’t go through, or that it’s not 25 percent, but time will tell.”
Thank you for addressing this expanding challenge for us all, Abby. This was a great article.
Just when many Americans think that the tariffs would not affect them. How wrong can they be? What a challenge and many thanks for bringing this to our attention.
I really appreciate your explaining this. The Joann’s email was confusing and inadequate, so it was saddening (but not surprising) to see how quickly people attacked them on political grounds. Thanks for taking the politics out of it and explaining the bottom line of what tariffs mean for crafters – which isn’t good.
I think it’s a little odd for customers to complain about politics with their marketing, though the fact remains that this *is* a political issue and requires political action in order to stop these from going through.
This is great information. Our Made in the USA tulle will now get the shelf space it deserves. Our workers are overjoyed. The Chinese have been dumping goods into the market for years, at below cost.
This is nice to hearAndrew. Please share with us the name of your company that makes Made in the USA Tulle or the product name it is marketed with.
I can’t wait to see more American made goods on the shelves. I am not blind to the fact that manufacturing in America is an endangered species and producers frequently cite the cost of producing American made as prohibitive. So maybe instead of resisting the tariffs we need to be talking to the folks in Washington about making it less expensive to be in business here.
Doing business in the United States is, generally, more expensive because of labor costs–not just the labor of people doing the actual manufacturing, but also the labor costs built into the inputs to production, into construction of facilities, etc.
There’s a reason that manufacturing has shifted to Asian countries, India, Pakistan, Mexico, South and Central America, and other places where workers’ wages are a fraction of U.S. wages. Even though the average worker’s wage in the U.S. hasn’t risen much during the past decade or more, they shouldn’t be asked to work for even less, so we can compete with countries who have very low wages, compared to ours.
I don’t have the answer, but I don’t think it’s the folks in Washington who need to make it less expensive to be in business here. What would that even look like, other than paying U.S. workers even less?
Some items have gotten so inexpensive… I think we can retrain the consumer to pay more for American made products. We have been trained to do things the cheapest and fastest way, but maybe that isn’t the best way.
Imposed tariffs will cause a majore,massive stores and businesses closures,even if they first raise their prices that will be forced onto the consumers,eventually people will only buy the neccessities and stores and businesses will have to close.This is really uncalled for.The economy was already tanking before this happened,now it will be even worse than 2008!Thank you,Casey Grimes-Finley,Chicago,Illinois
I am happy to pay more for supporting America. This article does not consider the reasons for the tariffs. Cheap products/fabrics equal poor quality, major pollution issues and unfair wages for the workers. Besides- How MUCH STUFF do we need? Our homes, charity shops and landfills are over flowing with stuff!
Wait a second… the raw materials for your tulle is sourced from China. I don’t get what your complaint is except that somehow being woven in the US justifies inflated pricing.
Andrew, it looks like your company only sells wholesale. That leaves out smaller sewing businesses like mine that don’t need dozens of yards of a single fabric, for example. This is unfortunate. We also need ordinary people sewing and crafting for friends and family and local groups to be able to continue to do that. But I do appreciate quality fabrics and craft goods made in America.
Yeah, how many tutus do Americans need?
Thanks for the update, Abby. In your right sidebar you say that “majority of premium quilting cotton sold in independent quilt shops are imported from Korea and Japan … ” Can you talk more about this? Were you able to talk with the major quilting fabric companies to verify that? I’ve seen many people say this is true, but I haven’t seen any sourcing on it. Also I wonder what does “majority” mean? I like stats. 🙂 thanks in advance for any help.
Hi Melanie, Yes, I’ve talked with many presidents of the major quilting fabric companies over the last few years for my podcast and for various articles. For this article, I spoke with two of them. The premium quilting cotton that independent quilt shops carry is printed in Korea and Japan, not in China. The quilting cotton that JOANN, Wal-Mart, and Hobby Lobby carry is printed in China. QT Fabrics is printing premium quilting cotton digitally and that technology is only available at scale in a few places, China being one of them (it’s also available in Pakistan, but the digital fabric printers at the plant in Pakistan can’t print as fast so it’s more limited). Almost all of the fabric by the yard that JOANN sells is imported from China.
Yes, the printing is done in Japan and Korea, but the vast majority of the greige goods originate in China. So this is going to hit premium quilt sources too, just further down the road.
I worked in communications/social media for a local chain of fabric stores for over 10 years and price was always an issue with fabric and notions. Most quilting cotton came from China until they raised prices many years ago due to increased need in their own country (rising middle class) and “failed crops due to weather”. It was a huge concern at the time and premium quality cotton fabric prices increased quite dramatically. Customers noticed, but business was not severely impacted and many manufacturers shifted more to other countries, too. If consumers were more concerned with quality than price, however, JoAnn and other national chains would not be doing the amount of business that they do. For that reason, I can understand JoAnn’s concern about the tariff. Small businesses will continue to purchase quality fabrics and should not be impacted according to your findings, Abby. But, if the national chains can no longer purchase cheap fabric, their ability to capture the price conscious market will be drastically affected. That may be good news for small businesses! Why buy poor quality for a higher price, when you can pay just a bit more and buy premium quality fabric? It will be interesting to see how this sorts out and I’ll be watching.
Intelligent post, Annette.
I work for a fabric company in the US. Most of our fabric comes from Korea and Pakistan. Japanese fabric is also prevalent but more expensive to produce. Digital printing has been migrating to China because they produce a great product less expensively. There are fabrics coming out of India but in my experience the quality isn’t consistent. I agree with previous comments regarding American produced fabrics. Wages are a big issue but you also have more tax on the products from county, city, state, and federal sources. Americans want to make money and set pricing for what the market will bear. Fabric is highly competitive so the industry itself keeps pricing down, to a point. The government could provide incentives for companies who want to produce fabric in this country to help create an American produced market
Also, on the last page – buttons, of all sorts; and, (a little further up from the end) for the sewists out there – sewing machines and some types of needles for various machines.
Thank you for the article, the Made in America tariff headings have been very confusing, this clarified the issue for me thanks
The abolition of tariffs here in Australia decimated our manufacturing industries. Most manufacturing companies have either moved off-shore or closed down, resulting in huge job losses. Of course, the trade off is we now have access to cheaper goods. Is that worth it though? Unemployment means we have a larger group of people in our society living below the poverty line. Is being able to buy cheap t-shirts at Kmart worth that?
It also leaves Australia vulnerable to the whims of governments in other countries. As tariffs were abolished and manufacturing moved off-shore and disappeared from Australia we lost the ability to provide for ourselves, which means we are vulnerable to decisions made overseas. Skills were lost, manufacturing equipment no longer exists here. We can’t just start manufacturing up again. Losing the tariffs that protected Australian workers and industries has been a big mistake in my opinion. We want to buy goods made by people with lower wages than we have. We don’t want to buy clothes or shoes or fabric made by people who earn the same wage we do. That’s hipocracy! As for this “trade war”, maybe this is where we need to start to return manufacturing to our own countries.
Thanks for providing this point of view.
Kris, thank you for sharing your experience! People need to look at the long-term effects of economic decisions, and not merely the short-term for their own selfish purposes. I am willing to pay more for a good long term outcome!!
I like to vote with my dollars. I buy organic, I drive a Prius (both environmental choices) and I consider country of origin when making purchases.
The problem for the average US citizen is that not everyone can afford to pay more.
The income disparity gap is growing. Also many people who could afford to pay more don’t.
A case in point from Arizona where I live. Tuscon is 67 miles from the border. Over the last decade plus there has been a ramping up of anti-immigrant rhetoric. I have had neighbors, friends, and others who comment about immigrants “stealing “/ taking jobs from US citizens. Ironically, the people most vocal about this when asked if they check the immigrant status of their landscaper, nanny, house cleaner, tile guy, handyman or construction worker are suddenly silent. Or they hem and haw about how it’s not their responsibility and finally they say the truth… this or that person does good work and is cheap so they don’t ask, don’t want to know. People don’t want to pay more money. Others just can’t afford it.
Yes some people are desperate for a job but others don’t want to pick crops, work in a meat processing plant, etc. The horrible, physically demanding and often dangerous jobs. FYI meat processors like IBP recruit for workers in Mexico posting signs in Mexico City and elsewhere advertising jobs in Iowa and other states with big processing plants. They bring these undocumented workers here.
We need to replace our couch. We have looked for quite awhile. There are some companies that manufacture in US (not sure where components are made) and the price reflects it. We are going without couch for awhile so we can buy a US made one. Not everyone has that luxury hence the appeal of Ikea. There can be a 3 to 4 times cost difference for a couch from Ikea and one made in US at say Crate and Barrel.
The other piece in this discussion is also automation. We aren’t necessarily going to be creating more jobs by bringing back manufacturing because of increasing automation.
I do agree that small makers are really going to be hurt. My son and his fiancé who recently graduated from university have a niche high end costume business. They rely on faux fur and many other products that will be affected by tariffs. Can their customers afford a 25% increase on a $1k to $3k full body costume?
This is such a complex issue that involves so many other components besides just where factories are—education (are we teaching and training for a new automated globalized economy and are our young people ready to create the new industrious to come), environmental impact of manufacturing (as we implemented better regulations to protect workers and the environment companies also shifted to countries with less regulation hence China’s and other countries’ rising environmental degradation issues), standard of living and wages (as other countries wages increase manufacturing shifts to other cheaper markets and the cycle repeats as we are seeing in China), tax breaks and corporate taxes (Wal-Mart has historically played municipalities off each other for the lowest tax benefits for a new store. They are known to shut down stores after tax break ends and move to next location leaving huge buildings that are not easily repurposed often giving them leverage to get extensions to tax breaks to stay. Corporations don’t feel loyalties to countries and move headquarters to lower tax rate countries and find every way to avoid paying taxes. We could insist on having corporations be better citizens and contribute to the countries that really are their homes. The recent tax break benefited corporations the most. We could do more to stop their influence. Many major corporations belong to ALEC the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC has been responsible for pushing their agenda and legislation through states across the country through courting politicians and giving them boilerplate bills to present to state legislatures. ALEC brought us the end of net neutrality, for profit prisons and education, stand your ground laws and so much more.)
yes this is a long reply but my point is that this issue is so much more than tariffs and US manufacturing or just buying made in USA. It has been decades in the making and has been brought to us by corporations who seek profits above all else. Who have been given political personhood for speech (campaign contributions but not the same moral and legal accountability that average citizens face for illegal actions). And have sold it to us by offering us cheap goods with corresponding cheap wages.
I am sending my comment to the link Abby provided to voice my opposition to the tariffs. I will continue to vote with my dollars and at the polls. I hope you do the same.
You’ve provided quite a well-thought out, well-written, very clear,informative and understandable reply. Thank you.
Kris is spot on! The tariffs are in place to protect the domestic product and industry. The globalization of the 1990’s and NAFTA have absolutely destroyed the American manufacturing sector. Many of us predicted these two items would do it and now 25 years later, we are reaping what we sowed!
I am trying to reopen a woolen mill in West Texas that was shut down in the mid-90’s due to its customers moving their furniture manufacturing overseas. With the addition of a comb, I could make combed top as well as a worsted fabric. I have investors in place, but haven’t been able to secure large enough customers to warrant a full scale operation. I will probably fall into that “$10 instead of $4.25” dilemma. We as the consumers are going to have to change our mindset when we are purchasing items. I refuse to purchase the crappy products made in China if I can find a Made in America product. Unfortunately, I don’t think the craft market can support a 100,000 lbs of roving and yarn the mill can make. Our products will be 100% Made in Texas!
You are welcome to reach out to me at West Texas Fibers at ‘WestTexasFibers@outlook.com’. I need contacts for large scale customers. I’m hoping to get a Facebook page, Etsy presence and website up soon.
Price is not the only factor. Demand also plays a big role. Wool prices have been skyrocketing recently because large clothing manufacturers have been sourcing it, as they see the demand for natural fibers. I’m sure the decision for clothing manufacturers to use synthetic fibers in the ‘90s was part of the reason for the mill closing down.
I agree with you Kris. I am from the USA and I always thought NAFTA was a big mistake. I believe we should return manufacturing to the US and give small business owners the chance to thrive . I also do not like the idea of a lot of food coming from other countries.
Wow, you sound like me! I have been saying these things for years. I practice makings things in old fashioned ways, we might not all want to sit and spin, dye knit sew, do leatherwork, make structures but when we don’t have people who have the skills, or the knowledge of the machines Who loses? All of Us, but it is only real when people are affected. Education is great, but we need teachers to join the dots. By the time there is enough knowledge in the country it is frequently too late.
Kris, this is such an important viewpoint you have shared. There are so many twists and turns in manufacturing quality goods in a home country. What’s happened in Australia shows that quality goods aren’t always what sells, sadly enough. There’s a reason cloth production is not a major business in the USA — we do not have the massive technology and machines needed for it, for one thing. And I’ll just bet the investors with money to build huge plants are not looking to fabric and craft goods as a profitable option.
I’m not sure I understand your comment. Australia may have lowered tariffs, but they never got rid of them.
The idea is that tariffs are a two-way street — if you increase them on certain countries or trade markets, those countries will do the same, resulting in what is happening now, with goods actually made in the USA (or Australia) and exported getting hurt.
Thanks so much for the explanation of just what this means. I am a small independent craft retailer in South Australia. Many of my supplies are imported from the United States through distributors. Can you imagine the percentage of the increases by the time it gets to Australia? After 30 years of business I’m feeling the end is nigh. Sad. 😔
Thank you Abby for providing this information. Hopefully it will lead to some thoughtful and productive discussions.
Why is our government bailing out farmers affected by the tariffs, but other small businesses have to fend for themselves? There is no rhyme or reason to these tariffs, except as a basis for a bargaining tool for the administration. A bargaining tool which serves no real purpose. SMH.
I still try to buy American whenever possible, and that includes fabric… JoAnns’ email saying the tariffs will hurt the Made In America movement was disingenuous… It’s not Made In America if it has fabric from an Asian sweatshop… The textile industry shouldn’t be complaining about the cost of paying their workers a living wage when they won’t have customers anymore – whether from tariffs or unemployed factory workers not buying fabric…
Abby, thank you. You have a gift for explaining confusing topics in a way that makes them easy to understand and digest. I appreciate your efforts very much!
I want to reply on this because I have some experience with importing from China and tariffs. When I entered the craft supply market in 2010 I learned quickly about Chinese versus US manufacturing. First, what you might not know is that the Chinese government sometimes funds heavily in manufacturing in certain industries in order to produce goods so cheap that they effectively wipe out US manufacturers. My experience was specifically with narrow woven ribbon with selvedge. Offray had taken up an antidumping claim with the US Trade Office alledging that the Chinese government was funding ribbons manufacturers in China so they they could “dump” large quantities of ribbon into the US and put US manufacturers out of business. The US investigated and only two Chinese manufacturers responded, Yama Ribbon Co. and another supplier I can’t remember and demonstrated to the US how they were being subsidized. Yama, who I ended up importing from, only received a 1-2% subsidy from the Chinese government. In consideration for their cooperation these companies enjoyed an exemption from the 100% tariff that was levied at all narrow woven ribbons with selvedge imports to the US. But here is the rub. Offray is a US manufacturer and while they do produce nice satin and grosgrain ribbons (the two products I imported), they are nowhere near worth the astronomical difference in cost. There was absolutely no justification for buying Offray at what was more than 10 times the cost of Chinese goods. And because ribbon is manufactured by machine, it seriously does not make sense to pay that much more for American Made or Made it the USA.
Another product I imported from China was tulle. I could only find one manufacturer of tulle in the US. About the time I entered the market there was a huge rumor running rampant that Chinese tulle would explode if exposed to a flame. I traced this rumor to the US manufacturers who threatened me himself with what would I think if a little girl wearing a tutu made of Chinese tulle were burned severely because it burst into flames. I had already done a lot of research, specifically with the CPSIA, and learned that 100% nylon tulle, which is what I important and also what was manufactured in the US was made of, didn’t need fire testing because nylon has proven over and over again to NOT burst into flames, to be fire resistant. Regardless, tulle is manfactured by machine, but the US manufacturer wanted nearly four times the cost of the Chinese goods. As it turned out, the US manufacturer was using Chinese imported materials for their tulle but said they had US tulle because it was woven here. But again, this is a machine made material and it makes no sense that they wanted so much money for it.
So I really don’t know where my loyalties lie in this debate. China has a history of trying to put US manufacturers out of business. But US companies charge a unbelievable markup for their products without justifying the difference except to say that the average Chinese worker earns $500/month, which actually doesn’t give you any idea of how much that would buy in China or even that it is unskilled factory labor, or that their housing is provided.
I would add this, Chinese manufacturers and their US buyers skirt tariffs by buying through Alibaba and Ebay. I closed down my business because the US Postal Service subsidized the Hong Kong Post, yep it is totally true and has to do with a loophole and Chinese still being listed as a third world country. I, paying legal tariffs, could not compete with goods that could be purchased directly from China, were shipped through subsidized shipping (ePacket), and skirted tariffs through marking items dishonestly and illegally as Samples. So it is no wonder many of the retailers are up in arms because they will lose even more business to those who are cheating the system.
My beef with Joann Fabric & Crafts
“The timing comes right before Halloween, usually the company’s most significant sales period each year.” Joann has already ordered their fabric for their busy season. In fact, Halloween stuff is already in the store as is fall fabric, and most of the rest of the fabrics is either on ships headed to the US, in US warehouses, or on US trucks. I don’t think they are being truthful about how it affects this season. But that isn’t to say that they will not pass that tariff right on to us if and when it is passed.
“The Made in America Tax will hurt churches and charitable organizations who rely on craft supplies to create blankets and quilts for veterans, the hospitalized and the homeless.” You are dern right that will hurt those of us who have sewn for charity. Us, not you Joann because I don’t remember seeing a discount for charity projects. In fact, when I searched for Non-Profit Discount, this is what their website read “We’re sorry. This particular program has been discontinued. Good news! There are still plenty of ways for you to get special offers & savings from us.” Their coupons are great, but having been on the supply side of crafts, I know their prices are very inflated without a coupon.
Lastly, “There is no domestic source for many of the products affected by the proposed tariffs, and there is no possibility that a domestic source will develop. … And in fact, many products we sell have never actually had an American source.” This may be true but it is obfuscating the answer. Many of their products may not have an American source, but that does not mean they are sourced from China. They have sources from many different countries.
This was a very interesting perspective, thank you for sharing!
We basically lost our fabric manufacturers years ago. There used to be a thriving cotton fabric industry in the South, but all of those manufacturers were forced out of business by cheaper imports from China. Now we ship our cotton off to another country to be made into cloth, then import it back to the US. It doesn’t make much sense to me to put tariffs on items that are no available here, but are necessary for the countries health and stability. Are we going to outsource everything and rely on other countries for basic needs?
Amazing writing Abby! I enjoyed your article, I have also enjoyed reading the comments here.
Japan and Korea may not be affected by tariffs right now but that could change at the whim of a single person.
I would not buy fabric from China anyway, terrible quality of cotton fabrics. I’m sure Joann’s will be sad since the majority of their fabrics are shipped from China. Maybe they will finally learn what good quality cotton is and purchase from Korea or India.
Where the cost lies in U.S. manufacturing, even with machine made items, is labor. In the U.S., you still need someone to start up and run the machines and there is labor associated with machine setup and maintenance. China does not have the same labor overhead as the U.S. When you figure payroll, HR, and accounting costs into U.S. labor, we cannot compete with China in any sector. They just do not pay as well. And when it comes to mills, garment manufacturing, and apparel, they have huge labor and human rights issues. Sweat shops exist in China. It is not a rumor spread by U.S. companies. China is now with manufacturing labor, where the U.S. was around the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Until this changes, China will always have cheaper labor. It is starting to change, but it is still far from equal.
I have a huge issue with calling the tariffs a “Made in America” tax. It is a tariff, not a tax. There is a huge legal difference between the two and calling it a tax is just a way to blow it all out of proportion. We saw this same panic, when the U.S. cracked down on child clothing and toys because of toxic substances coming in from China. It was said this would put all small crafters out of business because no one could afford the testing. It did not happen. Plenty of small business in the U.S. still legally sell childrens toys and clothing. U.S. companies will either have to adapt to the changes by finding sources without the tariff or they will have to increase prices.
Personally, I think that JoAnns could lay off the constant sales, and then coupons which you cannot use for most items because they do not apply to sale items, and just sell at a reasonable price. If you can afford to sell at 70% off at least once a month, you can afford to drop your prices all the time and have fewer sales.
Thanks again for your invaluable reporting, Abby! I was puzzled by the Joann email and now I have the context I was craving. As for all the comments siting NAFTA as the source of the US’s current woes, I’m no poli-sci expert, but the problem addressed in this article is with China, not Mexico or Canada, and we need to remember that Nixon normalized relations with China back in 1972 setting the stage for the rise of free trade, the demoralization of the American worker, and the failure of American manufacturing. Ours is a complex problem that has been festering for decades and cannot be adequately summarized into tidy talking points about dismantling NAFTA. Let’s all do better.
I appreciate the informative article and comments. It’s hard to find an answer, but information, clear thinking and polite discourse can help us point towards a solution. Thank you!
Abby, to me this was the most important message you have sent through your newsletter. Thank you. Now, we expect future excellent articles discussing the above comments. Many submitted well-written personal experiences….dare I say, you have a lot of people to interview?
again, excellent post
We have to start somewhere in getting manufacturing jobs back in the USA. I support the tariffs.
Well said and thank you for breaking it down. Thank you for the article. It is a pleasure to read thought provoking commentary void of snarky comments.
That’s life. Always changing. Nothing is finite in life and it probably will change again.
I’ve scrapped my original response on the basis that I am not from the US. I will say that the naivety or nonchalance shown by some of the comments here has me aghast. Some people also seem very selfish – i.e. ‘they’ are happy to pay more. Good for them, but should crafting be only for the very comfortably well off? You might be able to afford more, but there are still people in our so called ‘throw away society’ who are reliant on those cast off goods to put clothes on their backs. Even cheap shops are too expensive for many. So I don’t suppose the average person would be able to just accept the tariffs and pay more on the basis it would allow for the development of US manufacturing (would it really in any case?) In fact they would be working in it – for rock bottom wages, unable to reliably put food on the table or contribute properly in society, let alone crafting. Truthfully, people are lucky that some of you are on the ball and fighting their corner. Good luck with finding a solution, I would hate to see the US crafting community suffering. I wish it were an easy fix but economics is not just wishful thinking. Oh that it were that easy.