Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber is reconsidering the company’s presence in China amid an ongoing tariff dispute between the U.S. and China.
In an interview with Fox Business News, Weber lamented that “the size of the tariffs in our category are tremendous.” The proposed 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of goods from China would bring the total tariff on Brooks Running shoes to 45 percent, Weber said.
The Seattle-based company stands to pay tens of millions of dollars if the tariffs are permanently enacted, Weber said. Brooks also manufactures shoes in Taiwan and El Salvador and sells its products in more than 60 countries. Weber said mass-producing shoes in the U.S. was “not possible” due to the large amount of manual labor involved.
“It’s really muddy right now,” Weber said. “We have to look at all of our choices. It’s an unsettling situation.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump signed a 90-day truce on Dec. 1 that prevented further tariff increases. But after months of trade talks, a resolution to the dispute remains out of sight. The World Trade Organization launched an investigation today into the U.S. tariffs on China, Bloomberg reported.
Despite trade headwinds, Brooks reported global revenues of $644 million in 2018, a 26 percent year-over-year increase that was driven by footwear sales.
Under Weber’s leadership since 2001, the company has focused on selling high-end running shoes rather than going toe-to-toe with brands like Nike and Adidas. Brooks is an independent subsidiary of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
The company has also made a name for itself in the worlds of tech and sustainability. In 2017, Brooks started working with HP and Superfeet to make shoes based on a runner’s unique biomechanics. Brooks’ Seattle headquarters, located in the Stone34 building near the north shore of Lake Union in Seattle, was one of the first buildings to be certified under the environmentally-friendly Deep Green building program.