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SJ President on Robots, Retail and the Repercussions of the Trade War

If you had to pick a watchword in the apparel industry today, uncertainty and change would no doubt be two top contenders. These two descriptors also drove the discussion on Nasdaq’s Trade Talks video segment on Monday.

From simmering IP issues to incendiary foreign policy decisions, Sourcing Journal Media president Edward Hertzman made a guest appearance to break down what it all means for investors.

With NAFTA still up in the air and President Trump’s protectionist tariffs giving way to retaliatory responses around the globe, Hertzman said one thing is clear. “No matter how you look at it,” he said. “It’s basically going to trickle down to the consumer.”

Hertzman’s comments echoed the beliefs of many in the apparel and retail communities that see higher prices on the horizon. Plus, he predicts, if things continue on their current path, the outcome could be the opposite of what Trump wants, with more jobs lost than gained.

Jobs were also the centerpiece of the segment on automation.

While innovation continues to deliver speed and convenience, Hertzman said the reality is it will also lead to displacement for some.

“The question is how long will it take before automation and robotics is adopted on a large scale and what’s the large impact on the workforce?”

Though robots can already be found on some factory floors, currently they’re limited to simple tasks. One day they’ll move beyond the basic T-shirt to more constructed garments though. To lessen the impact, the conversation needs to focus on reskilling the job force, Hertzman said.

And to keep up with e-commerce, in general—and Amazon, in particular—retail as a whole is having to learn some new tricks as well.

Though it’s often seen as the enemy, Hertzman said, increasingly brands are recognizing that it’s better to have Amazon as a friend than a foe. It seems the company is singlehandedly changing every aspect of the business from design through fulfillment, which is why it’s its own animal.

“Talking about Amazon and every other retailer in the same sentence isn’t even comparing apples to apples,” he said.

Watch the full video here.