The Story Behind the Chairs

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about the 2019 SPESA Executive Conference, but there is one story we haven’t yet told.

Conference planning is expensive. You have to pay for location, food, alcohol, projectors, microphones, alcohol (yes, it’s in here twice, because SPESA has its priorities), and furniture if you want your speakers to not have to stand for their full 1.5 hour panel discussion. As first-time Executive Conference planners, we wanted to make sure we used our budget wisely and scrutinized every purchase. The one expense that really threw us for a loop was the thousands of dollars it would cost to rent a handful of chairs for a two-day conference.

So, we came up with a plan B. Instead of renting furniture, we would simply buy it (at a lower cost than renting) and then donate it to charity after the conference.

Once we arrived in New Orleans, the SPESA team took a field trip to a local furniture store. As luck would have it, we easily found four identical grey armchairs that would work perfectly for the conference, providing our panelists a comfy, stylish seat on stage. But when we checked the price tags, we noticed three of the chairs were listed for one price, while the fourth was $20 more expensive. We spent about ten minutes playing an aggravating game of spot the difference — maybe the stitching was slightly more square than rounded, maybe the stain on the leg was a hair darker — before giving up and asking the store cashier what we were missing. Her answer made us groan in unison.

It turns out, the more expensive chair was delivered to the store in a later shipment than the others — after the U.S. government raised the tariff rate on certain Chinese imports and after the store decided to pass along the additional tariffs to consumers. Over the past year and a half, we have been monitoring and updating SPESA members on the possible impact of the U.S.-China trade war, and here it was, staring us in the face.

It is obvious that these tariff increases are hurting companies and consumers. While we are hopeful that the U.S. and Chinese governments can soon come to an agreement that will roll back the tariff increases (President Trump announced that an agreement had been reached in October, but seemed to refute that statement a few weeks later), it is also important to be prepared. During our final panel in New Orleans, the speakers discussed “Mitigating Your China Exposure” and paths companies can take to mitigate the impact of these tariffs on their businesses, such as requesting tariff exclusions or submitting Miscellaneous Tariff Bill petitions.

If you are a sewn products supplier and have questions about trade or tariffs affecting your business, please feel free to reach out to us.

P.s. After the conference, we donated the chairs we purchased to the JW Marriott New Orleans Human Resources Department which is going to give them to two staff members who have recently been displaced and are in need of furniture.