Retail

Ace Hardware CEO says US trade tariffs on Chinese goods are pesky, frustrating but manageable

Key Points
  • Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen says the ongoing U.S.-China trade war is more of a nuisance than an overwhelming issue.
  • "Our primary aim remains to insulate our customers from these tariffs," he adds. "We've told our suppliers we're not accepting price changes."
  • Venhuizen's comments came as Wall Street turned optimistic after President Trump said the world's two largest economies were nearing a trade deal.
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Ace Hardware CEO: Tariffs 'pesky' but 'managable'

Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen told CNBC on Friday that the ongoing U.S.-China trade war is more of a nuisance than an overwhelming issue.

"From our lens, in the short term, they are pesky, they are frustrating, but they are manageable," Venhuizen said when speaking about tariffs on "Squawk on the Street."

Retailers have been hit by the several billions of dollars on tariffs that Washington and Beijing imposed on each others' imports as the two countries remain locked in a trade war.

However, Venhuizen expressed confidence in the company's ability to continue operations without passing down price hikes to its customers. Back in May, he estimated about 12% to 15% of Ace's business was being impacted by the trade dispute.

"Our primary aim remains to insulate our customers from these tariffs," Venhuizen said Friday. "We've told our suppliers we're not accepting price changes." Illinois-based Ace, the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative, has more than 5,200 stores in about 70 countries.

Ace also hasn't had to shift inventory, he said of a strategy that some companies have been forced to do as they face rising costs. As the Trump administration began to announce the tariffs last year, Reuters reported in December that Walmart, Target, TJX and Macy's all raced to purchase Chinese products.

Venhuizen said Friday that Ace's retail locations "are going to be in stock as we enter the holiday season."

The Ace CEO's comments come as Wall Street turned optimistic Friday, after President Donald Trump said the world's two largest economies were nearing a trade deal. Trump told Fox News on Friday that both sides were "very close" to reaching a trade agreement, noting that "we have a very good chance to make the deal."

Earlier Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that while Beijing wants to make a deal, it isn't afraid to "fight back." Xi also told a visiting U.S. business delegation that China holds a "positive attitude" toward the trade talks aimed at cementing the "phase one" deal, which was announced last month as an agreement in principle.