Local furniture business feels effects of tariffs, prepares for increase

Martinsville's Hooker Furniture worried about impact to bottom line

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - A Martinsville business is worried that the trade disputes between the U.S. and China will continue to hurt it.

The managers of Hooker Furniture in Martinsville told 10 News Friday that the tariffs have already affected them but they’ve been able to make adjustments so far.

The Trump administration imposed a 10 percent tariff in September on many products coming from China and the president announced this week that he still plans on increasing the import tax to 25 percent next month if negotiations with the country fall through.

The company said a sharp increase like that would negatively affect its bottom line.

Hooker Furniture is stocking up on shipments now, in case they become more costly in a few weeks. It’s working with suppliers and the stores that receive its furniture, and making plans to increase prices and make deals in countries other than China.

“It was fairly disruptive to us and we've had to react very quickly to minimize the impact,” CFO Paul Huckfeldt said.

The company said it’s working hard to ensure it doesn’t have to lay off any of its more than 200 employees in Southside.

“Hooker Furniture has a long history here in Martinsville and Henry County,” Huckfeldt said. “We're a 94-year-old company and feel a strong commitment to the community and to be able to maintain staffing levels is an important part of that.”

The company manufactures and ships furniture but doesn't sell directly to consumers. It sells to small furniture stores and large department stores, among others.

Nearly half of what it ships out of Henry County comes from China. Items go to each state in America and many countries, including Russia and a few in the Middle East.

10 News watched Friday as staff members worked on the more than 1,600 shipments that they send out per day on average -- from inside a 1-million-square-foot warehouse.

Managers said they do understand the different views people have on these tariffs.

“If you're in a position where you've been hurt by what China has done, you're going to have a very strong opinion in favor of the tariffs,” Hooker Furniture President Jeremy Hoff said.

But he and his company aren’t facing those circumstances.

“If your career and your livelihood and your family's livelihood is dependent on goods coming from China, you have a whole different view,” he said.

Hooker Furniture has 1,100 employees worldwide.

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