CLEVELAND — The national retail chain Jo-Ann Fabric wants its customers to sign an online petition and send letters to members of Congress and to the White House urging exemptions from tariffs on hundreds of products the company imports from China. A company official said Thursday that without the exemptions, Jo-Ann customers would "immediately suffer the consequences of these goods being taxed" when the company is forced to raise prices.
Amanda Hayes, a spokeswoman for the Hudson, Ohio-based retailer, said more than 20,000 people have signed the petition since it went online Monday. The biggest "hit" for the 25-percent tariffs, she said, would be fabrics, fleece and yarn the privately-held company sells online and at its 870 retail stores.
"These are the components we sell in our stores that people purchase and make things that are made in America," she said.
Hayes estimated that around 20 percent of Jo-Ann's customers are small business owners and charitable organizations that buy material from the company to create handmade products for sale. She added that if those entrepreneurs and charities are forced to raise prices on clothes, blankets, quilts and other items they produce that their customers might opt to buy less expensive imported goods not subject to tariffs imposed during the ongoing trade dispute between China and President Donald Trump's administration.
The U.S. lacks suppliers capable of providing the quantity and quality of the products Jo-Ann buys from China, Hayes said. She added that around two-thirds of the company's products are sourced from China. And around 90 percent of what Jo-Ann sells is used by customers to create something, she said.
Ed Weinstein, Jo-Ann's vice president of tax and public affairs, was in Washington on Monday lobbying against the tariffs. He told The Associated Press he doesn't understand how fleece and yarn have become part of a trade dispute over high-tech policy.
Hayes said company president and CEO Jill Soltau was in Washington on Thursday meeting with U.S. trade representatives.
Hayes said the company appreciates the intent of the tariffs and supports fair trade with China.
"We're not seeing this as a political issue, but as an unintended consequence of a well-intended effort," Hayes said.