My Turn: Tariffs are slowly driving me out of business

For the Monitor
Published: 11/25/2019 6:30:17 AM

For the last 40 years, I’ve run a cold-weather accessory business in Troy. Our small business generates about $3 million to $5 million in annual sales, and we have anywhere from eight to ten employees. We’re what people would call a real “mom and pop shop,” and it’s owned and operated by us.

We make hats, headbands, gloves – you name it. And we sell our products to some of the biggest stores in the country, like Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.

But tariffs are slowly driving us out of business.

About 15 years ago, after manufacturing our products ourselves for 25 years, we had to make changes. The tanneries and mills here that used to produce the materials we needed couldn’t afford to keep up with the EPA standards coming out of Washington.

So, the majority of the production moved to China. And it’s next to impossible to find a furrier here anymore. There used to be 100 fur suppliers, but now there are very few left.

My background is manufacturing, so as our production moved overseas, I spent time finding the best suppliers and, in some instances, even training them to make sure the quality of our products remained the same.

Would I have preferred to keep the production here in the United States? Of course. But the industry just doesn’t exist here anymore. So, in order to keep my business up and running and to keep my employees employed, we had to adapt.

Now, I’m looking at a quarter to a half a million dollars in extra taxes because of these tariffs. And for a small business like mine, you’re talking about up to 10% of my total sales getting slashed. I’ve looked at trying to move my production to other countries, but it’s just not feasible. We’re a small business, so to find new suppliers means I would have to get on a plane and try to find someone. And, even if I did find a new supplier in a different country and spent the time and resources to train them on how to make our products, it’s likely the materials would still have to be imported from China – because, well, that’s where all the materials are.

I voted for President Trump because he said he was going to fight for the little man like me. I thought he was going to be different, but these tariffs are killing my business. And there isn’t anything constructive coming from the Democrats running for president either. Most of them are too afraid to even talk about the topic and some of them are even trying to double-down on these tariffs.

New Hampshire is proud of the role it plays as the nation’s first primary, and we take our job of vetting these candidates seriously. Well, now it’s time for them to start talking about the issues that are really impacting the people of New Hampshire – and one of the biggest issues is tariffs. They are bleeding small businesses like mine dry, and the uncertainty of it all makes it impossible to plan for the future. I even had to hire a special attorney to help me figure out all the rules and bureaucracy – tack on another expense thanks to tariffs.

Now, I agree with the president that it’s time to make China play by the same rules as everyone else. But these tariffs are not the answer. As President Trump gets ready to meet with President Xi to hopefully sign the phase one deal, I hope he remembers that a first step is good but we need a final deal that gets rid of all the tariffs. While they may be hurting some Chinese companies, they are killing small businesses all across the country – and right here in New Hampshire, too.

(Darryl Meattey owns Surell Accessories, a cold-weather accessory company located in Troy.)

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