"Catastrophic," "cataclysmic": Trump’s tariff threat has retailers sounding alarm

In a letter last month, over 170 shoemakers and retailers called on Mr. Trump to halt the trade war with China, which supplies almost 70 percent of shoes sold in the United States.

The industry cannot easily return shoe production to the United States, because labor costs are much higher here and there is little capacity for new production, said Matt Priest, chief executive of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. Even New Balance, which manufactures sneakers domestically, imports some material from China.

“I do think it’s catastrophic,” Mr. Priest said. “We are in the middle of right-sizing retail here in the U.S., with fewer brick-and-mortar stores.”

The impact will be greater on traditional retailers because they can’t adjust prices as quickly as online retailers, Mr. Cohen said. “This is going to cause more stores to close and more people to lose their jobs,” he added.