The Potential Impact of New Tariffs on Ecommerce

Change is scary, and yes price trends do matter in the online marketplace, particularly if you are in the market for buying or selling a business. Today we’re discussing the frightening possibility of tighter margins, particularly for Amazon businesses, as a result of the most recent US government tariffs on Chinese products. Here at Quiet Light, we get a lot of questions from buyers regarding what we can expect from the Amazon marketplace now and in the future. The reality is that entrepreneurs need to learn to see these changes as par for the course as well as opportunities for growth. The internet today is so much different than it was 11 years ago when we started Quiet Light Brokerage. In fact, we started the same year the first Iphone came out  – to give some perspective on just how much things can change!

When it comes to the geopolitical nature of e-commerce, specifically as it relates to the US, who better to bring in than a Canadian? Today’s guest, James Thomson, is a Partner for BuyBox Experts, a managed services agency specializing in marketplace management for brands, manufacturers, and resellers. He was formerly head of Amazon Services, the division of Amazon responsible for recruiting tens of thousands of sellers annually to the Amazon marketplace. He’s crazy knowledgeable about everything Amazon. We’re talking all about the tariffs and their potential impact on the e-commerce marketplace.

Episode Highlights:

  • What tariffs are coming out and what tariff trends are going to affect business?
  • Impact on first party sellers.
  • Ways to work with and around these tariffs.
  • How the manufacturers in China will see that they can suffer too.
  • The length and scope of the tariffs’ impact will have a lasting effect over time.
  • Parallel imports may happen eventually, creating retail arbitrage.
  • The foreseen impact for third party sellers.
  • How the tariffs are creating more incentive for Chinese manufacturers to become sellers and sell products directly to customers in the United States.
  • We discuss the consequences for Amazon sellers holding inventory.
  • How Amazon monitors expected sell through rates to deflect inventory increases.
  • Things sellers should keep in mind in order to keep their buy box percentages up.
  • Indicators that there may be opportunities for competitors like Target to swoop in in certain spaces as early as the end of this quarter.
  • If the tariffs prevail, one year from now will be the time when the retail increases will  show.
  • What countries might be viable alternatives to China as suppliers and when to start investigating those avenues.
  • The people who end up capitalizing and doing well in situations like these are the ones that look at these problems as opportunities.

Transcription:

Joe: So Mark I just launched a listing a couple of weeks ago. It’s under contract already, multiple offers, it went very quickly. Actually, it’s a re-launch because when we launched last year it didn’t sell because of flat trends on the top side, slightly down on the bottom side and we pulled it. And the owner of the business implemented all the growth opportunities that he wrote about and now business is up 27% so it went under contract very quickly. So for those people that are listening that don’t think that trends matter they definitely do because eight months ago no one wanted to buy this. Eight months later it’s under contract in what was literally like four days. And I can’t say the price of course but the thing that I wanted to touch about in regards to that is that he’s importing products from China and the potential tariffs have changed since we last listed the business. And so we addressed that in the client interview. We’re trying to stay current with it and he has a person through his manufacturer that helped him with the proper coding of the brands. And there was a slight increase in terms of the landed cost of goods sold but it was so minute it really had no impact on the discretionary earnings or profit. And I think that this is a topic that we need to address more and focus on in our client interviews and make sure that the sort of scary possibility of tighter margins is really looked into because not everything is going to have an increase and those that do it may be so small that is a very tiny percentage of that landed cost of goods sold. Now you just had an expert on to talk about it, our old friend James Thomson, right?

Mark: Yeah absolutely when it comes to US issues and the geo political nature of e-commerce specifically as [inaudible 00:02:27.4] the US who better bring in than a Canadian? So, James Thomson, he is the first account manager within Amazon’s marketplace. He’s the co-founder of Prosper Show. He’s a principal owner over at Buy Box Experts. The guy … I mean he’s crazy knowledgeable about everything Amazon. And so we’ve been getting a lot of questions from buyers both on deals that are under offer right now and also from people just kind of trying to understand the landscape, what are we looking at here with Amazon in the future. So I thought let’s go ahead and bring somebody on. Let’s talk about it. Let’s kind of dissect this. And he said a couple of things which are really really important about this and I’m not going to give all of it away because I need to tease of course so that people can actually listen to the entire interview but a couple of things. One, the nature of business is always changing. I mean the Internet today is way different than what it was when we started Quiet Light Brokerage. I’m actually just … I’m putting together a presentation right now for Ungagged coming up here soon early November and I’m taking a look back to when I started Quiet Light Brokerage. We started Quiet Light Brokerage the same year that the iPhone first came out so … I mean that’s how much things have changed in just 11 years.

Joe: Wow.

Mark: I know right. So I say that this Quiet Light Brokerage was the biggest event of 2007 followed shortly after by the iPhone of course. Anyway let’s get into the point here, James and I talk a lot about why are the tariffs in place, what is going on with these tariffs, what is the future of it look like, how is it going to impact e-commerce business owners, what’s the hope of the US government with these tariffs. And I’ll cut to the chase there the hope is that people start buying from other countries and most importantly what should you be doing about it. And on one thing that I’m just going to say here, I reiterate this at the end of this discussion with James. These sort of changes need to be looked at as opportunities among people who own businesses, among entrepreneurs. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 plus years now and the nature of the internet is constantly changing. Those who are looking at these changes and saying there is opportunity here, I have a great opportunity here to be able to adjust to the changes, find a new problem and solve that problem they do really really well. They’re the ones that are absolutely killing it. Those who take a look at stuff like this and get all scared they end up leaving and not continuing onto the world of the Internet, their entrepreneurial career. So this is an interesting topic, very relevant to our time right now. Definitely, take a listen to it and then James also offered an email address if you have any questions for him to be able to speak about it. He’s got a couple of really practical solutions that you can implement right away to be able to absorb some of these costs both in working with the factories and manufacturers in China but also just some very simple things that you can do on your side with your product launches and your products coming out to be able to pass this cost on. I’ll say one more thing and I know I’ve talked a ton here; I’m kind of all around the place here. And I think it’s really important to understand that everybody is facing these problems. When your costs go up 10% it’s not just you, it’s all of your competitors are seeing the exact same things. So it’s a matter of how do you absorb those costs, how do you plan to be able to compete with that, how do you address your Amazon account so that you’re not getting … losing your buy box share so on and so forth. Pretty simple stuff but you do need to have a plan.

Joe: Yeah and I think you and I have been around long enough that we know it’s not the end of the world, it’s just another hurdle that an entrepreneur needs to get over. Get over the hurdle. And knowledge is power. If you learn about it, focus on it, and if and when you decide to sell your business you’ll have that knowledge and you’ll be able to address and tell people how you addressed it. And for buyers, same thing learn about it. Not every category is going to have an increase in tariffs and increase in cost of goods sold. So James is very bright, one of the smartest guys in most of the rooms he’s in so I am looking forward to listening to this myself.

Mark: James welcome back to the Quiet Light Podcast.

James: Thanks for having me, Mark.

Mark: All right so let’s start off with just a quick introduction as to who you are. You have been on the podcast once before. I’m going to let you introduce yourself as far as your background … especially your background with Amazon and Prosper Show and Buy Box Experts.

James: Right. Well, I’m James Thomson. People may know me as one of the co-founders of Prosper Show which is an educational event for large sophisticated third party sellers on Amazon. I am also the partner for Buy Box Experts which is an advisory and account management company at sports brands on Amazon. And I spent almost six years at Amazon doing a number of third party related responsibilities including running Amazon services and being Amazon’s first FBA account manager many many many years ago. So thanks for having me back on again. I’m looking forward to talking about the ever increasing challenges of being a successful seller on Amazon.

Mark: Well, I’m going to admit this is a show that I have been sort of dreading to do.

James: Yeah.

Mark: But it’s really necessary and I know we’ve been starting to see more and more questions on the whole issue of tariffs. Before we jump into it real quick I am just going to give a shout out to Prosper Show. We go to a lot of shows at Quiet Light, Prosper show is awesome. If you’re selling on Amazon and you’re looking for a show where you can actually learn things and make good connections check it out, Prosper Show, what we’re going to be there next March probably with all the booth and all that so.

James: Thanks Mark, thanks.

Mark: The thing is I’ll make it for you because it’s worth making. And also I don’t want to talk about tariffs but let’s talk about tariffs. And as everybody knows we’ve had one round of tariffs slapped on a lot of products coming from China, 10%. There is a threat of more tariffs coming out in January. And I’m going to fess up publicly to everybody to say I’ve really been kind of putting my fingers in my ears and saying I don’t want to know about this, please make it go away. Let’s get everybody up to speed on this as far as the tariffs that are coming out and what the general political landscape is that we need to be aware of in moving forward.

James: So just to be clear I’m Canadian. I don’t vote in the United States. I don’t get to decide who does or doesn’t make decisions around the tariffs that are going to be charged. But for folks that haven’t been paying attention Mr. Trump is dealing … or has decided to enter into a tariff war with the Chinese around basically what dozens and now hundreds of products that are manufactured in China will be slapped with rather significant tariffs when they’re imported into the United States. As many the people listening in today will know these private label sellers gosh we have a lot of stuff made in China that ends up being consumed and sold here in the US. So I work a lot with private label sellers who are saying gosh I thought I had the opportunity to make some decent margin being a private label seller but now that my products that are coming in from China with this extra 10%, 15%, and possibly 25% tariff depending on what specific type of product you happen to make, gosh that’s an awful lot of money and I can’t really absorb that long term without it destroying my financial situation. So what do I do? I think to tackle this problem we should split it into two parts. There are going to be those companies that wholesale products to Amazon. We’ll call that the vendor central relationship and then there’s all of the companies that are using seller central to sell those products themselves; two very different situations. Let’s start with the … either one is really very easy but let’s start with the vendor central situation. If you are a brand and you are bringing products in from China and you’re turning around your wholesaling to Amazon … not surprisingly Amazon doesn’t buy price increases and they don’t really care about your profitability. That’s your problem and so if you’re now faced with an extra 10 to 25% COGS … 10 to 25% of higher COGS, absorbing that amount unless you’re making insane margins most of us can’t absorb that kind of money. And so the question then becomes A. can you get your manufacturer receipts absorbed? Some of that in cost reductions and we’ve definitely seen some situations where some of the overseas manufacturers are willing to make certain price concessions, especially if the North American sellers are buying the inventory in time to be able to avoid some of that initial tariff. So if you’re prepared to load up on some of your inventories, if you load up on your inventory now then next year are the first lot of x-tiles and units your Chinese manufacturer may absorb some of that extra cost. Because the reality is the Chinese manufacturers they’re also going to suffer through this. It’s not just the American brands, it’s Chinese manufacturers that also recognize that there isn’t going to be as much demand unless they absorb some of this cost.

Mark: Yeah and let me just make a point here real quick. I mean the goal of this and the Trump administration has been pretty clear, the goal of this is to get China to change some of their policies towards the US. And so they’re literally trying to disincentivize business owners importing from China you know a lot of these 1P and 3P as you put it, the vendor central and the other people selling through Amazon to buy from other countries. And so they’re going to make … through these tariffs they’re just making business more expensive for everybody. And ideally, there is going to be this internal pressure from the Chinese manufacturers on their government to be able to change some of the policies of the US. That’s kind of big picture.

James: The problem is … and I speak anecdotal experience, I live close to the harbor in Seattle and I see all the used tanker ships come in and more than half of them come in from China. So if I think of all this product that comes in that we consume here in the United States is being manufactured overseas if more than half of that’s being created in China the reality is our overall cost of buying stuff, whatever it is … plastic stuff, apparel, whatever … it’s coming from China. And so unless some of these other countries can very very quickly not only ramp up production but more importantly identify themselves to companies here in the United States that otherwise buy from China, unless they can do that and find a way to say hey come and make your products over here instead of in China, the reality is this is going to take a while and some of this pain around higher costs is going to affect both the manufacturers in China, companies here in the United States, and of course consumers in the United States if in fact some of those costs overruns or pass through as higher resale prices.

Mark: Right and just to be clear I’m not a geopolitical expert by any means but China has been pouring money in subsidizing their manufacturers for a really long time to be able to ramp up production levels that can provide basically manufacturing services to the entire world. That’s why their economy has really been juiced up to where it is today. So for people to look elsewhere to other countries it’s going to be darn near impossible for somebody to find prices that can be matched in other countries that may be seeing this as an opportunity. And even if a country does pop up for a particular industry it’s going to take years for the capacity to be able to grow up to the level where we really need it to grow up to.

James: Yes.

Mark: So this is a problem. Let me ask you a question on this real quick and I want to get into specifically how Amazon is treating this as well. You started to get into it. I think it’s going to be an interesting conversation but isn’t this going to affect everybody the same way? And at the end of the day I mean it’s the consumers that you would think are going to be left on in vague. If there’s a 10% tariff on Blue Widgets, all the Blue Widget sellers have to pay that 10% tariff.

James: Yes.

Mark: So eventually their cost is up so they’re going to have to raise the prices as well. Is this really going to impact the businesses themselves in that way since they could in theory pass that cost on?

James: So there are a couple of things here, and different people go to market on Amazon with very different distribution approaches. So if you are buying product overseas, bringing it in into the United States and turning around and trying to wholesale it to Amazon through a vendor central account, Amazon has made it clear they do not accept price increases. This is your problem Mr. Brand; you need to figure out how to absorb this. So what I see happening is some brands will say gosh this is inconvenient right before Q4 our biggest time of the year. Some of these brands will say you know what, as much as we hate to do this we will suck it up and we will absorb this cost. And so many of these manufacturers will end up with much much smaller margins while Amazon continues to have the product at the same price that it had and some consumers won’t see a price increase on those items. Unfortunately … and that’s fine short term but long term these manufacturers are going to say unless I can find cheaper sources of manufacturing elsewhere I’m no longer going to carry these products or I’m no longer going to sell them to Amazon 1P or I’m actually no longer going to sell them anywhere on Amazon; that’s one option. There is another type of distribution model that’s very common on Amazon which is the product diverter, and I’m not passing judgment on the product diverter, the reality is there’s a lot of product diverters on Amazon; companies that gray market source products. And so the opportunity for companies to go and proactively can parallel import and bring in products from let’s say Europe that came in from China nut they’re now coming in from Europe … I see an, potentially in some categories there will be a significant increase in parallel imports because somebody can buy that product in another country and to the extent, they’re not necessarily answering all the questions correctly about where these products are manufactured there will be more opportunity and more incentive for companies to do parallel imports. Again so as to be able to bring products in at a cheaper price than what they would otherwise be paying if they bought directly from China.

Mark: Is that illegal or do you literally have to be lying on your forms in order to be doing this parallel importing?

James: Oh please deter, I’m not suggesting that anybody does this. I’m just saying I fully anticipate this is going to happen.

Mark: Sure.

James: And so if the other thing is if the tax … if you can ensure the tax has already been paid at least once there may be opportunity for you to capitalize on nonetheless being able to re-import it back in and be able to source it. Brands don’t like product diversion and so knowing in there will be an issue there for brands long term having their products … basically, people capitalizing on retail arbitrage across borders and getting cheaper prices in one place so as to capitalize on that. What is more likely is if there is a price discrepancy in another country and you can buy the same item in Europe for 10% less than you can here in the US, some folks may decide to … depending on the math, it may decide to start buying stuff indirectly just because they can capitalize on price discrepancies in order to make things work. The logistics are more complicated but in the end, they still need to make some money and they’re prepared to take on these extra logistic steps just so they can make some money. All of this is short term because in the long run if a brand wants to continue to wholesale on Amazon they have to make money. That’s what … it’s why we’re all here. And so what I anticipate happening is some brands are going to stop supplying certain products and they’re either going to go and find production in other countries or they’re going to find completely different products that don’t involve China at all. And so that will mean that some products that we as consumers rely on … and I think for example all the Q4 toys that get sold in this country, the vast majority of them are made overseas and a huge proportion of those are made in China. And so it will be interesting to see specifically in the toy category what happens because with Toys R Us going out of business this year, there’s been a lot of discussions that some of the other brick and mortar retailers are going to be very aggressively going after Amazon. If Amazon for some reason in most of the toys that Amazon gets come from 1P, if those manufacturers for some reason say you know what we can’t make any money selling you these products we’re not going to sell it to you because you’re not prepared to take a price increase, we may have a situation where Amazon actually runs out of stock on an awful lot of top selling toys. Which is bad, bad, bad for Amazon. So I think the toy category of all categories is the one that may push Amazon short term to accept the fact that it is going to have to absorb some higher costs in order to have inventory on absolutely critical selection in Q4.

Mark: Interesting, so let’s move over to the 3P and I have also some questions maybe about competition to Amazon which hopefully we can get to but let’s move over to the 3P. What’s the impact that you see and I know we’re all crystal ball in here but what’s the impact that you see for 3P sellers? And 3P for anyone that doesn’t know this would be FBA merchant fulfilled, anybody that is not selling vendor central but still selling through [inaudible 00:18:43.2].

James: I’m going to separate 3P into two groups there’s the resellers and there are the private label sellers. If I’m a private label seller and buying stuff from China I make the decisions myself on what pricing should look like. So if I have to raise my prices 10% to maintain my margins I can choose to absorb some of that for competitive purposes. But I always have the flexibility of saying I’m going to raise my prices. An important … a very tactical issue, let’s say that you’re selling your product for $25 today on Amazon and you added list price information into the Amazon catalog, you can’t just raise your price from $25 to $30 to cover your extra price. You need to also increase your list price because otherwise, Amazon’s going to flag you in selling products significantly above the list price and also press your Buy Box. So you’ve got to make both of those adjustments at once. As it relates to resellers the question becomes if you’re buying from a distributor or a brand here in the United States that you’re then turning around and reselling who’s splitting the cost increases there? And that’s going to differ widely on brand by brand. Some brands may already have a lot of inventory here in the US and they say well we’re just going to ride this out and hope this tariffs disappear sometime in Q1 or Q2 in which case they’re willing to … you know if they’re using some kind of a lifo … I’m sorry a phyto model of inventory there may not be any price increases at all for wholesale pricing. And so the retailer can turn around and continue to sell the product at the same price. The problem is all you need is one competitor in the same space on Amazon the whole price is tight and not move prices up and if they’ve got lower prices and they’re still doing the right thing with organic search and driving traffic they may end up with a higher proportion of total traffic on their products. Granted it’s very low margined traffic but it is nonetheless higher traffic. And so the question is how long is any particular reseller prepared to take lower margins for the benefit of higher traffic which isn’t necessarily high quality business.

Mark: I mean in defense here we see this happen anyways where we have people come in and try to break into a market and will purposely go low margin just to be able to break into that market. But this is kind of who could hold off the longest with the higher prices.

James: So there’s been a very important development this week with Mr. Trump getting out of the postal shipping rate agreement with China. There was a significant subsidy that the United States was paying for overseas companies to ship products one order at a time into the United States. A lot of these individual orders today don’t clear customs with any customs payments. And so if you got a 25% tax for example on those products, if they’re brought in bulk but there’s no tax on the individual orders, you don’t also want to create a situation where there’s that much more incentive for example for Chinese sellers to send products one at a time in the United States by removing some of these price subsidies on the shipping costs that will help to balance things a little bit. But you still have a situation where a Chinese seller can send an individual order into the United States and realistically most of those orders are going to get through without customs being applied on those on off envelopes and boxes. So in many ways, the tariff only creates more incentive for Chinese manufacturers to become sellers and to sell products one at a time in the United States. And so that continues to be a challenge.

Mark: Let me ask you about a tactic that I’ve seen sellers employ here in trying to get ahead of potentially … I know there’s threats of an additional tariff being imposed here coming January so possibly increasing the tariffs even more. And I’ve seen some sellers bulking up on inventory because of that; trying to get ahead of that. It has kind of a cascading effect though from what I understand if you’re a 3P and especially using Amazon’s fulfillment services. Does Amazon look closely at the amount of inventory that you’re keeping with them and are there consequences for maybe having inventory sit on their shelves longer?

James: No it was early this year Amazon evolved the way that they designed how much FBA capacity every seller has. And it has to do with the sell through rate of each individual skew that they choose to put into FBA. If you’re selling a product that sells a thousand units a day, Amazon will let you put as much of that in as you want. If you’re selling a product that sells one unit a month you can’t load up five years of inventory. Amazon actually won’t let you put that in the FBA all at once. And so as much as a seller wants to ramp up their level of interest they hold in FBA, Amazon will cap it based on their expected sell through rates. So if you happen to sell products that sell fast enough you’re not going to be putting more than six months of product into FBA, great you may load up a little bit more. But if you start bringing in pallets and pallets more than you’ll ever sell in the next six months, Amazon’s going to put the kybosh on that. And you’re going to have to figure out where to hold that inventory. So I think it’s a system that basically corrects itself. I think it’s worth a seller today if they’re planning on doing this in the next four to five weeks they should create an FBA shipment right now to see if Amazon even allows them to put whatever level of incremental inventory into FBA. They may well say sorry we don’t have that space because your expected sell through rate doesn’t by any means justify the load of inventory.

Mark: And I know a lot of sellers are using even a 3PL of sorts just to store Amazon inventory that they are eventually going to ship off to Amazon and that’s … if you’re not doing that and you store inventory for anywhere longer than a few months I think because of the storage rates you can get much better storage rates elsewhere but that’s something to look at.

James: So to that point if you do have to bring in an awful lot more inventory and hold the inventory so as to bypass the expected additional duties that come likely in January, one thing we may see is an increase in the number of sellers that decide to start using seller for full prime. And that’s a mixed bag in terms of whether it’s a good thing for sellers, in some situations they may be able to use the higher shipping costs that come with seller for full prime that may be adequately smaller to offset the expected cost of having to pay another 15% in a tax on imports. But you know we may see some … in certain categories we may see more sellers deciding to use seller for full prime in part because Amazon says you can’t send that much stuff into FBA but you know we’ll have to have to see what happens. My view is I don’t see this tax staying in place indefinitely. I see this is a game of chicken between two countries. And quite frankly I think the United States has more to lose than the Chinese do because the Chinese low cost production capabilities in China will continue to be there even if those costs are a little bit higher now that there’s tax added to it. And so reality is we Americans, we like cheap stuff and so if you go to the source of cheap stuff … and so I suspect at some point that there will be some counterbalancing that happens and it’s a matter of how long can people hold on without going out of business.

Mark: Yeah. Let’s talk about the Buy Box a little bit. You touched on this earlier about things that you may want to watch out for if … when your changing prices on your site. What are some things people should keep in mind if they do decide to pass on some of those costs to the eventual customers at the end of the day? What are the things that they should watch out for so they don’t lose their Buy Box percentages?

James: Well the first one is you still … when you offer your product you want to make sure that it’s at or below the list price. So if you’re having to increase your price over whatever the current list price is today then you want to make sure that you can update the list price information. If you are a reseller of someone else’s products and they haven’t updated the list price then you’re going to be in trouble because you can’t sell that $30 item for $35 when the list price is 30. And if the manufacturer controls the list price or you as the reseller don’t have brand registry ability to go in and update the list price you’re going to be in a situation where you don’t have the buy box because you’ve had to sell the product in a price above the list price. So start that conversation now if you don’t have the ability to change the list price on a product you resell have that conversation now because you need to get that information updated. Otherwise, the brand is going to lose out to any other brand that has the ability to update their list prices. So even if the brand you’re reselling doesn’t want to do this you need to explain to them listen if you don’t do this everybody that sells your product is going to be in a situation where they can’t win the buy box which means the consideration of your brand or other brands is going to be significantly hampered.

Mark: That’s good advice. Let’s move on to Amazon and their adjustments that they might be making on their side and also possible competitors. And I’m thinking Wal-Mart here who has been pretty aggressive in trying to eat in Amazon’s market share. I don’t know how successful they’ve been with their two day shipping on anything, no membership fees everything else. You’ve already described how Amazon is right now at least probably pretty unforgiving as far as price increases on them [inaudible 00:27:44.9] side.

James: Yeah.

Mark: Do you see any opportunity here for some of these competitors and even if it’s not one competitor maybe that fragmentation of Home Depot taking care of their pit space and actually increasing their presence target doing the same, Wal-Mart doing the same, and have you seen any indication of this yet?

James: Well what I have seen … I go back to the toy example, what I’ve seen is that both Target and Walmart are aggressively looking for ways that they can win in the toy space this Q4. And it only takes one or two of the big toy companies to tell Amazon 1P that they’re not prepared to send any shipments unless there is some modification to the pricing. Unless that happens … oh, I’m sorry if that does happen then I think it could be a very painful Q4 for Amazon in a category that they actually absolutely need to win. But the problem with Amazon is they usually win anyways. The reality is if they can’t get it directly from the distributor or the manufacturer they find a secondary source. They go and find a distributor that will unload a product at low margin, Or they will do parallel imports. So I think if these duties remain in to place for 12 months it’s going to be next November or December that the pain is really felt by brands. Because right now a lot of them already have inventory, they already brought in to the United States. While they may have paid 10% extra duty it’s not 25% duty but at the time you have long term 25% duty that absolutely is going to impact what their retail prices look like. So as bad as it may be coming out of this December if that tax remains in place for another 12 months that’s when companies are going to have to say okay we’re going to have to discontinue certain skews. We’re going to have to launch new versions of the existing skews under different UPCs so that we can have new list prices on these items. I’ve seen situations already with some companies where they’re already loading the 2019 version of an item with very slightly modified packaging but that’s the product that’s going to replenish the 2018 version that they’re very soon going to run out of and have no plans on ever replenishing as long as the tax is in place; i.e 2019 version cost 25% more retail because everybody has to continue to make money doing this.

Mark: Okay one of the things that we’ve been trying to educate people on especially in this e-commerce space there’s a lot of people out there that want to find a couple of evergreen products that are just constantly bringing in cash. And then there’s always the question of well how do you handle competition? When we brought it up time and time again now on this podcast where look good product based companies come out with new products on a regular basis and so that’s actually … it’s something I haven’t heard before. That’s a great way to be able to address this is come up with a 2019 version or a slightly different model version which your cost can absorb that new price and be able to work it out to the price that self. Last thing I want to talk about, let’s assume that this does last for a while, you know a year or more. The intended effect is for US importers and retailers to move and look for other countries. So what are some of the countries maybe that people can start looking into. And I know it’s going to vary industry by industry but what countries might be viable alternatives to China if people want to start looking at and look for manufacturers in different places that could possibly replace their current supply?

James: I don’t know how much I knew I can add to this. I mean a lot of the companies I know they look in Thailand and Vietnam today. Some of them look in Laos. I know the Southeast Asian countries, a lot of them have low cost production but they’re not necessarily known for the sophistication of bringing together manufacturers the way, for example, Canton Fair does. And so I see an opportunity here for … let’s say I’m the business development government organization in Thailand or Vietnam to the extent of they can put together a major event that will attract thousands of manufacturers and thousands of overseas buyers, I mean I see that as being rather significant. If you can spin up a Canton Fair like event or even a very small verison of that in one of these other Southeast Asian countries. Part of the challenge here is visibility. There already is an Alibaba that helps people find every Chinese manufacturer. Is there a similar concept in Vietnam and Thailand? To this point, it’s nowhere near as visible and so it becomes something that basically has to be centrally organized either by large associations of manufacturers in country or potentially the government. And so if one of those countries is able to step up and do something like this and create visibility that will help. But let’s be honest even if I said to you your product can be made in another country basically the same way starting today you’re still looking at six months of testing and small minimum order quantities to verify and make sure that you have got the right payment structures in place. And so I would challenge everybody who’s listening today if we’re looking at a 12 month or a long term situation with this tax being in place you’ve got to start these conversations in January figuring out where is my alternative source going to come from. Because it’s going to take time to work through and figure out am I really getting the same quality? Am I really getting the same delivery promises and so on from my overseas manufacturers that are now coming out of a different country?

Mark: Yeah. So I’ve been an entrepreneur now for going on 20 years and the way … I would just like to close out here because some people might be hearing this and saying oh my gosh this is so incredibly scary. And what I want to say is this, these things happen. These things happen in business. The conditions change all the time and the people who end up capitalizing and doing really well are the ones who look at these problems as the opportunities that they are and figure out the way to make it work. There will be people who drop out. There will be people who do not pay enough attention to this and don’t make the right moves. And so when we see these things rather than getting all scared and actually ironically enough this episode is probably going to air right around Halloween. I think we’re going to publish it the day before Halloween and do our email newsletter advisory the day after … so you know a good timing for that. But to understand that there is definitely opportunity here. I think there’s a couple of really good tactics. I think James you brought up just one simple one was just bringing up a new version of products that have and make them a 2019 version. That’s a really simple type that we can have to see what’s going to happen. And then also just have your ear to the ground as to where you can also find other products. So this has been really really enlightening. James, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people reach you if they have questions about this or honestly your work for consulting with Amazon sellers is unparalleled so if they have other questions even unrelated to this where can they reach you?

James: I can be reached at [email protected]. All those emails go directly to me. And I appreciate your time today Mark.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for coming on. Again James is one of the best in the business by far. Prosper Show check it out and then if you have questions feel free to reach out to me and I can do an intro or [inaudible 00:34:40.8] James. Thanks again for coming on.

James: Thank you, Mark.

 

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