Nordstrom faces call to drop Donna Karan merchandise
A petition from the Care2 petition site asking Nordstrom to drop apparel lines from the Donna Karan and DKNY brands, a response to the fashion designer’s comments earlier this week widely seen as suggesting that women may have been asking for inappropriate overtures from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, was close to reaching its goal of 7,000 signatures on Thursday morning.
"I think we have to look at ourselves," Karan told the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail on Monday. "Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. … To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?"
"We’ve heard from some customers, and we certainly understand their concerns," a Nordstrom spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email. "We’ll continue to listen to their feedback." The company paying the price for Karan’s comments, which she has subsequently tried to walk back, is G-III Apparel Group. Shares in G-III, which acquired the brands last year from LVMH for $650 million, declined 4.11% Wednesday as the controversy continued to swirl.
Care2’s petition won't be sent to Nordstrom for about a week, to allow time to collect more signatures, according to Care2 spokesperson Julie Mastrine. She didn't directly answer Retail Dive's question Thursday about why the group has singled out Nordstrom for this protest, considering that several retailers carry the lines, saying only that she "is not aware of any other petitions targeting retailers at the moment." When she launched the petition, Mastrine was also not aware that Karen is no longer helming the brands herself. "I wasn’t aware, initially, Donna Karan herself no longer owns the DKNY brand, but saw that Nordstrom’s web site sells the Donna Karan Cashmere Mist perfume," she told Retail Dive in an email. "It’s about them being associated with her brand when she’s made these comments."
A request from Retail Dive to Nordstrom for comment regarding the Donna Karan petition wasn’t immediately returned on Thursday.
The petition places Nordstrom in the crosshair of protestors for the second time this year, after the department store, along with many others, faced calls to drop sales of Ivanka Trump’s brand. At that time, Nordstrom told Retail Dive it based its merchandising decisions, including its move to scale back on Ivanka Trump goods, on sales rather than protest. The retailer drew the ire of President Donald Trump, Ivanka's father, but its shares and sales haven't noticeably suffered from the controversy.
Research from analytics firm Jumpshot appeared to back up Nordstrom’s stance regarding the Trump brands, though it’s difficult to separate how protests may have affected sales. Jumpshot tracked traffic to Ivanka Trump products on Macy's and Nordstrom starting 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 exceeded Nordstrom since last 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 and January, and increased on Macy's by some 18%.
"When you really look at the data around Ivanka Trump's brand and products, it is clear that Nordstorm made its decision due to performance, not to make a political statement," Jumpshot vice president of marketing Randy Antin told Retail Dive in email. "That said, the timing of the decline does seem to align closely with the issues around the election and may have been impacted by consumers who have boycotted the brand."
By Tuesday, #BoycottDKNY had accumulated more than 4.4 million impressions according to social intelligence and consumer analytics agency Brandwatch, making the hashtag among the most used in these conversations.
While Karan’s personal brand (and by extension the goods carrying her name) has been rocked by the fallout from her remarks this week, it’s G-III whose stock price and sales (along with the department stores carrying the merchandise) that are likely to suffer the most financially. DKNY's Facebook page is full of angry comments from people who, like Care2 spokesperson Mastrine, may not be aware that Karan herself is not at the helm, reflecting the tricky position the brands and retailers are in. A request for comment from Retail Dive to the brands wasn’t immediately returned, although Women’s Wear Daily reports that Morris Goldfarb, chairman and chief executive officer of G-III, has declined comment.
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