Recent tariffs imposed by the U.S. on Chinese imports continue to affect small business members such as Krystal and Blake Garfield with the family-owned Bedrooms & More in Seattle. Next month they plan to attend the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Retail Advocacy Boot Camp in Washington D.C. intended in part to help them and other small businesses tell their stories to local, state and national policymakers.
Bedrooms & More has operated in the city for 46 years. Krystal Garfield manages the day-to-day financials, while Blake Garfield oversees the company’s wholesale division, product development and advertising. Blake Garfield told Lens the training is an opportunity to “really put a face to small business, reinforce the values that we provide to the community and make the influence we have more proportionate to the amount small businesses contribute. It seems to me there aren’t a lot of people lobbying for the little guy. When there’s an opportunity to go out there and bring our needs to the forefront or at least level the playing field, I think you have to take those opportunities.”
According to a 2018 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are roughly 590,000 small businesses in Washington that compose 99.5 percent of all businesses in the state; of those, 10,901 are exporters. Those small businesses employ 1.3 million people, or 51.5 percent of all employees in Washington.
The Garfields were nominated by Washington Retail Association Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs Mark Johnson. He told Lens that the trade war is an example of where persuasive storytelling by small business owners can influence policy decisions. Currently, the U.S. has placed $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese products, with the threat of $325 billion more. In response, retailers have ramped up their inventory in anticipation of additional tariffs.
“To have an impact with our congressional delegates and state lawmakers, giving some business owners some good life stories and good life experiences, I think is a real effective tool on very important issues,” Johnson said. “They really need to use some real-life examples for folks to get the feeling of what they’re talking about.”
For businesses such as Bedrooms & More, it means either higher costs for imported products or searching for partnerships in other countries.
“It’s had a pretty terrible impact on us,” Blake Garfield said. “When you’re a small business, you don’t have 1,000 employees…that these other companies have. It does create challenges. I think the key is going to be educating the public at large about the value that small businesses provide.”
The NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association based in Washington D.C.