The Ivanka Trump brand is ending a tumultuous year with a new brick-and-mortar location, which opened Thursday in Trump Tower. Plans for the store were first revealed over the summer.
The brand has struggled to make physical stores work, opening and closing locations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the city’s SoHo neighborhood and in a Beijing mall.
Trump Tower may be a friendlier venue, though not all the visitors in the lobby where the store is located are Trump fans, and the store is opening amid evidence that the Trump brand, including Ivanka’s, is suffering globally.
The Trump brands have become lightning rods for controversy and prime targets of the #GrabYourWallet boycott launched shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration. Ivanka Trump, who seemed for a time to be able to craft an image separate from her father, is increasingly less able to do so as a key player in his administration. Earlier this year she stepped down from her company, which nevertheless hasn't escaped problems stemming from that controversy. A location in Trump Tower is hardly a move away from it.
The brand's customers are increasingly polarized, as demonstrated by conflicting social media messages threatening retailers with boycotts when they do or don’t carry Ivanka's apparel or jewelry. The firestorm was only stoked further in February when the president tweeted that his daughter's company was being unfairly target by Nordstrom, which earlier this year dropped the brand, citing poor sales.
Other retailers tried to find a political sweet spot in the matter. Regional department store Belk posted a statement earlier this year that Ivanka Trump merchandise, while no longer sold on the website, would be featured in stores. And off-price retailer TJ Maxx reportedly mixed Ivanka Trump goods in with other apparel, pulling signs and dedicated racks from the floor. Macy’s is also under pressure to dump the first daughter’s brand.
In Nordstrom’s case, the comments about the line’s performance are bolstered by third-party data. Analytics firm Jumpshot tracked web traffic to Ivanka Trump products on Macy's and Nordstrom since Jan. 1, 2016, and found that while traffic to Ivanka Trump products on Nordstrom was much higher than on Macy's between April 2016 and September 2016, traffic on Macy's has exceeded Nordstrom since October. While Macy's and Nordstrom both saw a spike in November, traffic to Ivanka Trump pages decreased on Nordstrom by about 14% in December 2016 and January, and increased on Macy's by about 18%.
Expect the current political climate to increasingly force retailers to recognize that "being political" goes beyond issues like safety in overseas factories, environmental sustainability and human rights, Doug Stephens, a retail futurist, told Retail Dive earlier this year. The latest retailer to do so is Patagonia, which this month replaced its home page with a black screen that read "The President Stole Your Land," with the sub-heading "In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history." The brand's founder says he will sue Trump over the moves.
Patagonia has since brought back its product pages, but the rebellious banner remains. Indications are that, despite pushback from Congressional Republications and the administration itself, the move has helped stoke sales.
“We live in a world where retailers are finding themselves having to become more politically responsive — whether they like it or not,” Stephens said in an email. “Few issues, however, have been as as polarizing as Trump-branded merchandise. And just as America is divided what to make of the Trumps, it appears equally conflicted on how brands and retailers have chosen to respond to them.”