The following is an excerpt from the latest installment of TWICE’s Executive Retail Roundtable, in which we gather some of the best and the brightest in tech retail to address the state of the industry. Join us for a deep dive into the challenges facing the retail business today:
TWICE: Without getting too political, what impact will President Trump’s proposed trade policies have on the tech industry, which is so reliant on Chinese- and Mexican-made imports?
Steve Baker, The NPD Group: Nobody really wants to talk about that.
Dave Workman, ProSource: Nobody really knows. There’s a lot of hyperbole and bluster. The question really is, what is a campaign slogan and what is reality? We’re enjoying the stockmarket ride and other things that have occurred short term.
I think there is a general bias around a Republican-controlled House, Senate and White House, that it will be more pro-business, and that is really what we are seeing as a reaction in the markets.
TWICE: Tax reform too.
Workman: It’s going to come through tax reform and other stuff that has been talked about in his broad platform. But the devil’s in the details, and we just don’t know.
TWICE: It appears we’re going to continue in the disruptive, warring-factions mode of the presidential campaign. How will this affect consumer spending in 2017? Will shoppers shut their wallets like they did before the election?
Workman: They won’t do that. I had somebody call me and say I’m hearing that the East Coast and West Coast are really slow because everybody is in mourning. What? Yeah, right, they went out and drank the Jim Jones Kool-Aid in their living rooms when they found out the election result. We didn’t see any of that. The business was just as strong in the blue states as it was in the red states.
In fact, I saw a 50-state map of what business was up and down, and there was no corollary whatsoever to whether it was a Democrat state or Republican state. They were trying to make a case that post-election 50 percent of the country would be happy and 50 percent would be unhappy, and that would affect the shopping. I didn’t see it.
TWICE: Maybe the blue folks drowned their disappointment in a new 4K TV.
Workman: That and a fifth of Jack Daniels and they probably got through it.
Baker: It doesn’t really make any difference who is in charge. It’s about people’s paychecks and job security.
That said, tech has traditionally been mostly immune to what happens in the macro economy because it’s been new products, it’s been new opportunities, things that people were willing to spend on that maybe they might not have done otherwise.
Three of the best years that tech had were 2008, 2009 and 2010, when the economy was in the crapper. What did we have? Flat-panel televisions, netbooks, iPhones, products that were new, that were game-changing, that people really wanted. And they had money to go out and spend on those, regardless of how terrible the economy was.
See the rest of the TWICE Retail Roundtable: