Thus far, American Textile has been able to avoid passing higher import costs to his customers, but that may no longer be an option. Mr. Ruttenberg said it seems inevitable that he will have to tell retailers that prices are going up.
In the meantime, plans for future investment are on hold until the Trump administration provides some clarity about its strategy.
“I would say we’re in wait-and-see mode,” Mr. Ruttenberg said.
Bracing for a hit to profits
On Friday, emails about Mr. Trump’s latest trade war escalation began flooding the inbox of Ron Romero, owner of Schaefer’s TV and Appliance Center in Lincoln, Neb.
Mr. Romero had given up convening emergency tariff meetings when the president’s trade pronouncements had become such a moving target. After the latest spasm on Friday, he decided that he would hold his breath until manufacturers told him that higher prices for the products he sells were on the way.
Manufacturers tend to give between 30 and 90 days’ notice before raising prices, he said. There was no telling what Mr. Trump could do in that time.
Prices of some appliances at Schaefer’s have already increased by as much as 7 percent, Mr. Romero said. Some appliances that he imports have components that are made in China and some, such as televisions, are manufactured there and exported to the United States.
Consumers are changing their buying habits accordingly. Mr. Romero said that shoppers in the market for refrigerators are forgoing costlier units and opting to buy a $1,000 refrigerator rather than one that sells for $1,250, crimping profits.
“I am disappointed in the way this is going back and forth and not coming to some kind of solution here,” Mr. Romero said, referring to Mr. Trump’s negotiating style. “I’m just hoping that with the election coming, that he will make a decision one way or another and move on.”