With the new tariffs on more Chinese goods taking effect Sept. 1, nearly 60% of U.S. shoppers reported being nervous retailers would increase prices on products and put a damper on holiday shopping, according to Coresight Research’s “Holiday 2019: U.S. Shopper Survey,” which was released this week. Some ecommerce industry experts say retailers will have to drive shopper interest with promotions—particularly through social media channels—to combat buyer anxiety about rising prices or a potential recession.

57.0% of consumers said they were concerned the tariff dispute would translate into higher prices for items on their gift lists, according to a survey conducted last month by retail research firm Coresight Research, and a majority of respondents—nearly 70.0%—said they won’t increase spending to cover any price hikes. Rather, they anticipate buying fewer items, finding cheaper products or switching to less expensive retailers.

In mid-August, Coresight surveyed 1,784 online U.S. consumers who plan to buy physical gifts for the 2019 holiday period. With more than 80.0% of respondents saying they expect to buy at least some presents online by the end of the year, these consumer insights are especially noteworthy for online retailers, as price comparison is easier online than in stores.

The tariff timeline

These results suggest consumers expect tariffs will hit their own pocketbooks this holiday season, even on the heels of the U.S. government deciding to postpone duties on some goods until mid-December.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced in August that it would delay the additional 10.0% tariff imposed on China until Dec. 15 for items such as mobile phones, laptops, computer monitors, video game consoles, some toys, and certain items in the apparel and footwear category—many of which are popular holiday items. The partial grace period was a move aimed at reducing any disruption to Christmas shopping because goods for holiday sales would be imported weeks before the new tariff timeline begins. But tariffs on other items still kicked in as planned on Sept. 1.

Yet as trade tensions further escalated, the office announced that it would raise tariffs another 5% in response to China targeting U.S. products with duties. Now tariffs will be between 15% and 30% for roughly $550 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into the United States.

While President Donald Trump has maintained that the levies won’t result in higher prices for U.S. consumers and that China is bearing the cost, economists have disputed his claims and pointed to the trade war as a potential trigger for a U.S. recession.

Consumer and retailer expectations for post-tariff shopping

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