Amid all the discontent and rage in America, there is also a smattering of guarded hope that President-elect Donald Trump’s prescription for a more business-friendly environment will kick-start the economy.
Trump’s agenda is expansive and, to some, overly ambitious. It is designed to grow the economy at 4 percent a year and create 25 million jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, trade reform, regulatory relief and fewer restrictions on American energy. His plans to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, roll back burdensome regulations and invest in the nation’s sagging infrastructure and energy sector are welcomed by many in the industry.
And while his repeated calls to pull out or renegotiate trade deals, impose tariffs on imports and label China a currency manipulator have sent ripples of anxiety throughout the industry, Trump has
dialed back at least some of his rhetoric.
“I was a strong Hillary supporter, but I must say I have been a) surprised at and b) encouraged by the tempering of the rhetoric and what he is doing in terms of considering or appearing to consider for substantive decisions [in cabinet posts], people who are actively opposed to him,” said Paul Charron, former chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne Inc., who is now an independent consultant. “For a guy who was totally outspoken during the primary and the general elections, he very early on…appears to be creating bridges that a number of people can walk across.”
Bayard Winthrop, founder and ceo at American Giant, said: “I am on way to North Carolina where we are going to visit one of our factories where we employ 300 sewers that were not there four years ago. To the extent that we have policies that come out of Washington that are enabling that, I am a fan.”
Winthrop said Trump might say eight different things in 12 hours, “some of which are offensive and wrong.”
“I am not a fan of the rhetoric,” Winthrop said. “I am not a fan of him or of his campaign, but I am hopeful that we may see a better business environment under this administration than what we have seen in the last 20 years or so.”
But threats to label China a currency manipulator and impose higher tariffs on imports from that country and Mexico linger.
“Clearly, if we abandon or renegotiate NAFTA or if we initiate a trade war with China, [it] would not be helpful for us or for the economy at large,” Edward Rosenfeld, chairman and ceo of Steven Madden Ltd., told investors. “What I’m hoping is that some of that campaign [rhetoric] got a little overheated, but the cooler heads will prevail and there won’t be any major changes on trade.”
For many, it’s simply time to wait and see.
“As business people, we can only manage what we can manage….There are plenty of things, though, that we can manage better,” said Kevin Mansell, chairman, ceo and president of Kohl’s Corp, on a call with shareholders. “Inventory is a big aspect, but that’s driven by receipt flow. And I think we’re managing it much more effectively than we did in the past, and it’s giving us a lot more flexibility. So if, for instance, you feel there’s uncertainty due to continued fallout over from the election, I think more flexibility in a business plan is a good thing.”