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US-China trade war hits hard

A 74 per cent increase in tariffs since last year has added US$6 billion ($8.8 billion) in extra costs for US consumers and businesses, a pro-trade group says.

The trade group, called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, which includes the Americans for Free Trade coalition and Farmers for Free Trade, says that additional tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump would further hit demand and hurt jobs.

The US-China trade war has intensified as Washington has branded Beijing a currency manipulator and said it would impose 10 per cent tariffs on the remaining US$300 billion ($440 billion) in Chinese imports, starting on September 1.

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Business leaders said tariffs will increasingly threaten US jobs by not only injecting demand volatility but also through upending supply chains.

“As prices go up and demand decreases it is a fact: American jobs will be lost,” said Lance Ruttenberg, chief executive of American Textile Company.

Walmart stays pat on gun sales

Walmart says there has been no change in its policy on gun sales after two mass shootings over last weekend, including one at a Walmart store, left 31 people dead in Texas and Ohio.

The giant US retailer says it already “goes beyond federal law” in what it requires of gun purchasers, including background checks, Reuters reports.

Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest US arms retailer, to end assault rifle sales in 2015 and in 2018 to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21.

Advocacy group Guns Down America has started a petition calling on Walmart to stop selling firearms, pledge it will no longer make contributions to politicians who take money from gun rights lobby the National Rifle Association, and fund gun buybacks. It also pushes Walmart to use its political influence to advocate for legislative changes to raise the standards for gun ownership in America.

Several large chains have taken steps to reduce their firearm sales in recent years, including Fred Meyer and Dick’s Sporting Goods, but gun sales in the US continue unabated.

Tiffany to open in India

India’s Reliance Industries is partnering with iconic US-based luxury jeweller Tiffany to open a line of stores in the country, adding yet another marquee name to its growing portfolio of brands, Reuters reports.

Tiffany plans to open stores in New Delhi and Mumbai in the second half of fiscal years 2019 and 2020 respectively, attracted by India’s growing luxury consumer base.

The tie-up comes as Reliance, which is run by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and runs a sprawling conglomerate, bolsters its consumer-focused units such as retail and telecoms to match the strength of its dominant oil and gas business. 

For Tiffany, known for its diamond engagement rings and a flagship Manhattan store made famous by Audrey Hepburn, the deal represents its latest effort to expand globally as it battles subdued demand in the US and Europe.

Uncertainty hurting UK retail

Major British retailers have reported the weakest July sales growth since records began more than 20 years ago, and overall consumer spending was lacklustre too, despite summer blockbusters The Lion King and Toy Story 4 giving cinema tickets a boost.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents major high-street chains and supermarkets, said annual total sales growth picked up just 0.3 per cent in July after contracting by 1.3 per cent in June and 2.7 per cent in May.

The industry figures add to signs of slowing demand from households, the one sector of the economy which has held up relatively well since June 2016’s vote to leave the European Union, helped by rising employment and wages.

“Underlying uncertainty about the wider economic and political landscape is causing many to hold off making purchases on bigger-ticket items,” Barclaycard director Esme Harwood told Reuters.

Tesco cuts 4500 jobs

British supermarket chain Tesco is cutting about 4500 jobs from its Metro stores in an effort to streamline and restructure its operations in response to the changing retail environment.

Tesco, both the biggest retailer and largest private sector employer in Britain with some 320,000 employees, says the move is driven by changing shopping patterns, including the rise of online shopping and increased competition from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

South Koreans boycott Japan

South Korean consumers have begun a boycott of Japanese goods, accusing the nation of an “economic invasion”, reports Korea Bizwire. GU and Muji are being tipped online as possible targets.

Longstanding discord between the two countries broke out again two weeks ago when Japan threatened to throttle exports of materials essential to South Korean industries. In immediate response to the threat, thousands of protestors marched in Seoul, and the boycott campaign against Japanese retailers has continued from there.

Bloomingdales joins rental market

Upscale US department store retailer Bloomingdale’s will enter the apparel rental market in mid-September with the launch of “My List at Bloomingdale’s,” reports Women’s Wear Daily. The service will include hundreds of women’s apparel items  – from dresses and denim to jumpers and outerwear – from more than 60 brands, with more than 100 exclusive pieces.Chain Store Age  reports that subscribers will be charged US$149 a month. They will create a list of at least 10 pieces they want to rent. A box containing four items from the list will be delivered within two to three business days. Once the pieces are returned, a new selection of four items is sent out immediately. Subscribers can return and receive batches of clothes as frequently as they want, but all four items from a box must be returned to receive the next box.

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