Walmart Warns: Higher Tariffs on China Mean Higher Prices for Customers


Walmart Warns: Higher Tariffs on China Mean Higher Prices for Customers
Brett Biggs (Wal-Mart)

NEW YORK — Walmart Inc. of Bentonville warned on Thursday that higher tariffs on imports from China will mean higher prices.

The comments came after the nation's largest retailer reported its best sale performance at its established U.S. namesake stores for the fiscal first quarter in nine years. It marked 19 straight quarters of same-store sales gains.

"We're monitoring the tariff discussions and are hopeful that an agreement can be reached," said Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs. But he told reporters, "Increased tariffs will lead to increased prices for our customers."

Walmart declined to comment on what type of price hikes shoppers could expect and which products would get the biggest increases. But the specter of higher prices was also echoed by Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette. He told investors Wednesday that if a fourth round of tariffs takes effect, that could mean higher retail prices for both store label and national brands. 

Target, J.C. Penney and other major retailers will be reporting results in the next few days and should shed more light on the issue.

Walmart, Macy's and other major retailers have been left largely unscathed by the first several rounds of tariffs since they focused more on industrial and agricultural products. But that changed last week when the Trump administration slapped 25% tariffs on imports like furniture. The administration wants to extend the 25% tariffs to practically all Chinese imports not already hit with levies including toys, shirts, household goods and sneakers. That's roughly $300 billion worth of products on top of the $250 billion targeted earlier

Walmart and others have benefited from a continued strong economy and low unemployment, but shoppers continue to look for deals. In particular, Walmart's core customers who live paycheck to paycheck would be particularly sensitive to any price increases. Walmart said it's working with its manufacturing partners to mitigate the impact but declined to comment further.

Such looming extra costs come as Walmart is investing more in its business to compete with online leader Amazon in a fight to see who can get packages to customers faster.

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