The outdoor gear and apparel industry — and makers of outdoor specialty footwear in particular — dodged a financial bullet this week when the Obama administration dropped opposition to the renewal of several miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs) that affect footwear made outside the United States and imported for sale.
If the MTBs had been allowed to expire at the end of this month, the bottom line for companies that make specialty shoes, along with the consumers who buy them, is that prices for shoes would have risen by nearly 40% at the beginning of 2013. These price increases would have affected shoes that have no viable manufacturing options within the United States, including certain waterproof and breathable footwear (e.g., hiking boots and trail running shoes incorporating materials such as Gore-Tex) and footwear for hunting and fishing.
And prices for consumers — meaning you — would have risen steeply.
Fortunately, the Obama administration heeded the collective cry of the outdoor gear industry and dropped their opposition to reenactment of the bills.
This is indicative of the clout that the $646-billion-a-year outdoor recreation industry is capable of wielding in the political and economic arena. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor activities on the part of Americans directly support 6.1 million American jobs. Nearly 200 companies expressed their opposition to the administration position on the MTBs in recent days.
Naturally, outdoor gear retailers (whose line of business can consist of up to 30% shoe sales), as well as makers of shoes are happy that they dodged this financial time bomb. As an example, 16 models of footwear made by La Sportiva would have faced drastic price increases.
Jonathan Lantz, president of La Sportiva North America, said, “We set our pricing on a six-month basis, so we would have had to absorb the increased costs. We would have taken a big hit, which would have limited our plans for hiring, marketing, and employee appreciation programs in 2013.”
So be thankful, you who are fans of La Sportiva’s extensive and top-rated line of hiking, climbing, and running shoes. You won’t be paying 38% more for your footwear!
The same goes for Scarpa and its popular brands of hiking, trail running, rock climbing, and mountaineering boots (including Koflach — some of the best technical winter mountaineering boots made; also some of the most expensive).
So, my active readers, this will make it a little easier for you to continue getting outdoors and doing your thing…