Best Christmas Ever: Small Holiday Business Turns Tariff Threat into Opportunity for Growth
By Christine Myers, Region 2 Advocate
While visiting Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., I had the opportunity to meet with a small business that turned a possible catastrophe into a new opportunity for growth.
The Gordon Companies is a second-generation business that has a history of seeing opportunities where others did not and making a business out of it. Dave Gordon began his business in the 1980s by buying leftover inventory and reselling it. At one point, he bought an incredibly large number of souvenirs from Disney and had no real plan on how to sell them. His son Nate, while in college, stepped in and began selling these items eBay. It worked. People were buying them, much to the surprise of his father. Some years later Dave had accumulated truckloads of Christmas decorations and opened Dave’s Christmas Wonderland. In 2004, he turned again to selling on-line, and soon realized that “Christmas” was a huge and growing market. With the help of his son, Nate, Dave learned the value of selling direct to customers via the internet, and Christmas Central (Christmas.com) was born.
Fast forward 15 years, and Nate Gordon has officially joined his father in the business. Together, they have grown their business exponentially. The Gordon Companies include four brands and five buildings with 400,000 square feet of warehouse, retail, and office space. Every space is filled with Christmas decorations, ornaments, lights, trees, wreaths, pool supplies and home decor.
The Gordon Companies thrive on the holiday season, so their business was threatened by the announcement earlier this year of a 25 percent tariff on holiday products imported from China. Because they import almost all their products from China, Nate Gordon said they would need to lay off a large portion of their 300 seasonal employees and some full-time staff if the tariffs were implemented. The Gordons filed three exemption requests with the United States Trade Representative, explaining the devastating impact of the tariffs on their small business. In early September, President Trump announced the enforcement of the tariffs would be delayed until Dec. 15, 2019, to ensure the holiday shopping season would not be negatively affected. What a Christmas gift! This delay gave the Gordons plenty of time to import their products for the holiday season.
But this tariff scare got the Gordons thinking. Why are they relying on China to make their products? Why not make them in their hometown? They could insulate themselves from international tariff volatility, become vertically integrated, and best of all they could employ many local people, including veterans. Plus, being one of the few American manufacturers of their products would be a competitive advantage and eliminate the hassle, time and cost of shipping from China.
With resources available from the local SBA, programs such as SBA HUBZones, and USDA’s economic development loans and grants, plus New York Opportunity Zones and other state economic development incentives, there could not be a better time to grow their business! Hopefully, the Gordons can utilize these resources to make their products in their hometown and give their employees and their community a good reason to celebrate every year.
You can learn more about these economic development initiatives that help encourage small business growth at the links below:
- Western New York State Economic Development Programs
- Opportunity Zones in New York
- SBA HUBZones
- USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program
Christine Myers serves as the Region 2 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Myers works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 2 to Washington DC. She can be reached at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org.