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Will the Trade War Kill Retail's Growth?

Posted by MFour on Jul 12, 2018 7:00:00 AM

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Like everybody else, consumer insights professionals are waiting to see what’s in store for the U.S. retail market as new tariffs on imported goods kick in. But no matter what’s happening in global, national or regional economies, whether positive or negative, brands and researchers need to be plugged in to the best data streams they can access. In tense times for the economy, good, data-driven decision-making becomes all the more important.

In the case of the current tension over tariffs, the conditions businesses must respond to are changing literally by the day. Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) had provided some baseline statistics reflecting conditions and key indicators as they had stood before the first round of tariff increases. Based on those, the NRF had predicted that we wouldn’t see significant declines in imports or retail revenues despite the tariffs, because of inelasticity in supply chains and consumer demand. 

“Retailers cannot easily or quickly change their global supply chains, so imports from China and elsewhere are expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said in the release dated July 9. At retail checkouts and store aisles, he added, the tariffs “will mean higher prices for Americans rather than significant changes to international trade.”

But the NRF adopted a far more alarmed tone just a day later, when President Trump announced a much greater escalation in tariffs on products from China. 

"The threat to the U.S. economy is not a question of ‘if’ and more about ‘when’ and ‘how bad,’' the NRF said in response, in a press release headlined "Retailers Say New Tariffs Against China Will Boomerang Back to Harm U.S. Families and Workers."

The bottom line, the NRF now predicts, is that "tariffs on such a broad scope of products make it inconceivable that American consumers will dodge this tax increase as prices of everyday products will be forced to rise. And the retaliation that will follow will destroy thousands of U.S. jobs and hurt farmers, local businesses and entire communities."

Before the latest announcement of the administration's intent to ratchet up tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, the NRF had forecast an increase of about 4% in retail revenues this year (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) -- down from the 7.8% increase recorded in 2017, but still a year of growth. Now it's hard to predict what might ensue over the coming six months.

In times both calm and nervous -- perhaps especially when times are nervous -- brands need to stay closely in touch with consumers to keep making the best decisions under whatever circumstances prevail. Whether they are exploiting opportunities when conditions favor growth, or defending market share when the going gets difficult, retailers and product marketers need data they can rely on to help drive the right decisions.

One thing that won't be changing is the the accuracy and validation marketers and consumer insights professionals will access from a state-of-the-art mobile app research app that's used by a representative, first-party  panel of mobile consumers. Connecting with respondents with a mobile app opens doors to unique, location-based research possibilities, including collecting passive data showing consumers' journeys along the entire path to purchase. Smartphones' multimedia functions power further capabilities, such as asking for "video selfie" responses in which interviewees provide vivid, in-their-own-words feedback.

Bad data can itself be viewed as a kind of tariff on business success, but it's a tax that no business needs to pay. To learn how app-powered surveys, observational location tracking and other advanced mobile capabilities can meet your specific projects’ needs, you're invited to set up a demo session with a mobile-app research expert from MFour. Just click here.

Topics: mobile research, market research, consumer insights, national retail federation, retail, mobile app research, tariffs

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