In recent months, the U.S. government has imposed tariffs on approximately $250 billion in Chinese imports and the issue is raising questions among industry companies as they prepare their 2019 catalogs. The tariffs remain a fluid situation—currently at 10 percent, tariffs will rise to 25 percent as of January 1, 2019. Manufacturers have won exemptions for some products, but not for others and uncertainty in some cases surrounds whether the tariffs apply to a product. As a fourth round of tariffs threatens to encompass all remaining Chinese imports, companies are left with questions on how to communicate potentially fluctuating prices to customers.

Earlier this week, supplier AAKron Line sent out an e-mail to distributors outlining its plan for handling tariffs in its printed 2019 catalog. It will include published pricing for all U.S.-made items while imported items will be identified with a “Tariff Target” logo and an “as low as” price to give distributors a general idea of pricing for the item. Its website will show the most accurate pricing for these items and will change in real time as tariffs are imposed.

The discussion continues online, with industry companies sharing ideas on handling catalogs in the face of uncertainty. On Promo Connect, PPAI’s knowledge community for the promotional products industry, Brett Cutler, vice president of sales at supplier Greater China Industries, asked his peers about their catalog plans. “I’m curious how the tariff situation will be reflected in catalog pricing for the new year,” he wrote. “Do you plan to include the tariffs in pricing and offer discounts if/when the tariffs are removed? Or footnote that accurate prices are shown online? Given the political nature of the tariff situation and the fact that they can go up or down faster than our traditional catalog print cycles, I’m interested to understand what everyone is planning for the 2019 catalog season.”

Kory Hershkowitz, manager at business services company Catalog Kings, responded on the site, “It is definitely going to be an interesting year due to the tariffs. We are a large catalog printer and there are so many different ways that our clients are doing this. Some are doing a short run of catalogs to get them through January to see what happens, and then plan to go back and print large quantities once they know what is going on. Others are planning on coding for the different options just in case. The other option is to print the catalogs without pricing and then print a separate price list once they know what pricing will be.”

In another thread on Promo Connect weighing the merits of print and digital catalogs, Mark Abels, president of supplier SELCO, adds, “I think in this unusual year, [print or digital] is fine—point to the digital pricing or include a disclaimer on the page. Another option is to insert a price list with an expiration date and a link to find the latest list. Have updated price lists available online as a PDF. This option would allow distributors to have an updated catalog when they go into a meeting if that is how they prefer to work.”

PPAI is working with experts both within and outside the industry to develop tools for promotional products businesses to stay informed of, identify and navigate the tariffs and their effects. Follow PPB Newslink for more information in the coming weeks. The Association also encourages industry companies to communicate with supply chain partners, clients and end users about the tariffs and their impact.