Ivanka Trump's namesake brand is winding down in light of the ethics restrictions that have made it difficult for the company to pursue growth strategies, the company told Retail Dive in an email Tuesday. Existing licensing contracts will not be renewed but will be allowed to run their course, the company said.
"After 17 months in Washington, I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business, but I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington, so making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners," Trump said in an emailed statement.
"I know that this was a very difficult decision for Ivanka and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have led such a talented and committed team," President Abigail Klem said in a statement. "When faced with the most unique circumstances, the team displayed strength and optimism. From the initial launch of the brand in 2014 to the recent expansion of direct-to-consumer capabilities on our website, I am thankful to the team for the great work they have done and to our outstanding partners who so diligently executed our brand vision."
The troubles for the presidential daughter's brand arguably began with her father's presidential campaign launch, when his anti-immigrant rhetoric prompted Macy's to drop their longstanding relationship, selling his apparel and fragrances.
Ivanka Trump, who seemed for a time to be able to craft an image separate from her father, has been less able to do so as a key player in his administration. Last year she stepped down from her company after the brand said it wouldn't proceed with a distribution deal with Sanei International to bring the brand to Japan, following a recommendation from the White House ethics counsel, the company noted.
The company continued to open stores and expand its e-commerce, but it faced boycotts from some consumers and somewhat mysterious moves from retailers. Retailers including Nordstrom, Belk and TJ Maxx, pulled back on selling the first daughter's brand, and the anti-Trump boycott organizer Grab Your Wallet monitored which were selling or dropping it.
While activist groups like Grab Your Wallet applauded every time the brand was dropped, including a triumphant statement on social media on Tuesday upon the news of its folding, retailers didn't always seem comfortable taking a stand.
Yes, it's true: Ivanka Trump is shuttering her fashion line. Things may be close at the polls. They are not at the cash register. The big hearted, fair minded people hold the majority of the consumer power and we vote every single day. #GrabYourWallet https://t.co/W4v7kzjhiP pic.twitter.com/5w03VnHLZL— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) July 24, 2018
Nordstrom, for example, insisted its decision was due to falling sales and not a political statement. TJ Maxx reportedly kept selling the goods but took down signs and mixed them in racks with other merchandise. Most recently, DSW reportedly stopped buying shoes from the label, though the retailer didn't comment on that and the Ivanka Trump brand itself denied that to Retail Dive.
All that, plus Trump's inability to be involved in the company, which was positioned as a lifestyle brand as much as an apparel brand, was unsustainable, according to Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail. "Ms. Trump was always closely associated with the brand but her current responsibilities mean she has had to take a back seat," he noted in comments emailed to Retail Dive. "This lack of control is likely uncomfortable when the label bears her name and is largely seen as an extension of her personal brand."
And the politically tinged controversy was hardly likely to dissipate, either, he also said. "Views on the brand have become highly polarized and it has become a lightning rod for protests and boycotts," he said. "While the company is still viable, doing business has become far more challenging and these problems will only increase."
Still, with copyrights and intellectual property still on the books, "a future relaunch is possible," according to Saunders.
Not likely, though, according to a brand spokesperson, who told Retail Dive in an email: "We cannot predict what Ivanka chooses to do in the future, but any other business endeavors she pursues will be unrelated to this brand."