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Why Trump's Tariffs Could Ruin Black Friday

President Donald Trump
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty)

Take note, shoppers. While the holiday season is traditionally the best time of year to make your tech purchases, the ongoing trade war with China is throwing everything on its head.

Black Friday deals, traditionally offering the best sales of the year, could be weaker than ever as a result of President Donald Trump's tariffs on Chinese-made imports. Consumers should prepare to pay more for laptops, 4K TVs, iPads, and even smartwatches. 

"Tariffs are already affecting consumers whether they realize it or not," said Richard Kowalski, senior analyst at the Consumer Tech Association. "Everything from TVs to wireless earbuds are affected by the current tariffs." 

Kowalski is referring to the 15% tariffs that went into effect on September 1. The tariffs affected $112 billion of Chinese imports covering a wide range of consumer goods including 2019's best TVs and the industry's best wireless earbuds

"Anything with Bluetooth will cost 15% more," said Kowalski. This includes wireless earbuds like the ubiquitous Apple AirPods and headsets like the new Bose 700

The news gets worse. The White House is expected to implement a second round of tariffs on December 15. This round will include 2019's best phones, best laptops, tablets, and game consoles. 

"These tariffs will impact a lot of consumers," said Kowalski.

Tariff impact on retailers 

It's not all doom and gloom. Retailers know that shoppers will be looking for deals in the coming weeks and some have started offering Black Friday deals well in advance of the December tariffs.

Earlier in the month, Walmart Black Friday deals kicked off with hundreds of price cuts on popular toys. Meanwhile, Best Buy started offering Black Friday price match guarantees on select premium 4K TVs it had on sale last week. 

"Every retailer has a different approach to how they're handling the extra costs," said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation. But one thing is certain — they must all make a decision on who will pay the price of Trump's trade war.

"Anything with Bluetooth will cost 15% more."

Richard Kowalski, senior analyst at CTA

For instance, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts estimate that Amazon will need to raise prices in the United States by about 2.1% to 2.6% on average to offset the impact of tariffs by the Trump administration.

Amazon is, of course, one of the country's leading retailers over the holiday season. Fresh from a record-breaking Amazon Prime Day, consumers are expecting the retailer to offer even lower prices over the holidays. It's still unclear what Amazon's holiday plans are in light of the trade ware. Amazon declined to comment for our story.

However, some retailers may raise prices in a way that will make it hard for the average consumer to notice, said Gold.

"Some companies may be spreading the costs across multiple product categories instead of raising prices for one particular item, meaning it's less obvious from a consumer standpoint," said Gold.

And if you think avoiding tech purchases will steer you clear of higher prices, you're wrong. The tariffs are affecting various goods from shoes and apparel to French wine and even whisky. On October 18, the Trump administration hit European countries with 25% tariffs, which included tariffs on wines from France and Italian cheeses.

Amazon will need to raise prices in the United States by about 2.1% to 2.6% on average to offset the impact of tariffs by the Trump administration

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Shopping advice for consumers 

The average consumer has no say on the tariffs, but one thing they can do is shop smarter. There are many tools and browser extensions that show consumers how to spot a good deal. For instance, CamelCamelCamel is a site and browser extension that tracks prices on Amazon. This tool can help you find good Amazon Black Friday deals by showing you a price history of the product you want to buy.  

Due to the shorter holiday season, Black Friday will begin earlier than ever. Walmart, for example, debuted its Early Deals Drop at the strike of midnight on October 25.  Bottom line: When consumers see a deal or price that matches their budget, they should go for it. With the December tariffs looming over Black Friday, the chances of seeing cheaper prices in December are going to be slim.

Camel Camel Camel

(Image credit: Camel Camel Camel)

Cyber Monday deals could be the exception. Cyber Monday has traditionally been the biggest online shopping day for retailers and it's been steadily growing since its debut back in 2005. This year, the retail holiday will also fall on December 2, which is a few days before the December 15 tariffs go into effect. As a result, Cyber Monday could be your last chance to get those rock bottom prices that the holiday season is known for.