G-III, the company that has a licensing agreement to manufacture and distribute Ivanka Trump apparel, has re-labeled Ivanka Trump goods for sale at discount retailer Stein Mart, according to a report from Business of Fashion.
The Trump merchandise has been labeled as “Adrienne Vittadini Studio” products, unbeknownst to the Ivanka Trump company, according to the report. Stein Mart, which is carrying the merchandise, runs 290 stores in 31 states, mostly in the South and Midwest.
The swap is curious, considering that Authentic Brands and not G-III owns the license to Adrienne Vittadini Studio merchandise and considering that the Ivanka Trump company was unaware of it, Business of Fashion notes.
G-III and Stein Mart have denied that the political controversy swarming the Ivanka Trump brand was the reason for the label change, according to this report, and Business of Fashion notes that some brands remove their labels when a discount retailer is selling their goods, in order to protect higher prices in other retail outlets.
Yet, the Trump brands have become lightning rods for controversy and prime targets of the #GrabYourWallet boycott. Ivanka Trump’s company, from which the first daughter reportedly stepped down last month, is not escaping that problem. Its customers are increasingly polarized, as demonstrated by conflicting social media messages threatening retailers with boycotts when they do or don’t carry its 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 sales of the brand, citing poor sales.
Meanwhile, other retailers tried to find a political sweet spot in the matter. Regional department store Belk posted a statement earlier this year that its Ivanka Trump merchandise, while no longer sold on its website, would be featured in stores. And off-price retailer TJ Maxx has reportedly mixed its Ivanka Trump goods amongst its other apparel, pulling signs and dedicated racks from its floors, The New York Times reported. Macy’s is also under pressure to dump the first daughter’s brand.
In Nordstrom’s case, its comments about the line’s performance are bolstered by third-party data. Analytics firm Jumpshot tracked 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 and January, and increased on Macy's by about 18%.
Meanwhile, the turmoil extended to retailers that don’t carry Ivanka Trump merchandise. After Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank called President Trump “a real asset” for U.S. companies in an interview with CNBC, Under Armour’s most high-profile athlete, Golden State Warriors shooter Stephen Curry, responded “I agree with that description if you remove the ‘et’ from 'asset.'” Curry also told The San Jose Mercury News that he didn’t vote for Trump and that he’s concerned about Under Armour aligning itself with Trump’s values, though Plank’s work with Trump in and of itself isn’t his biggest concern.
Expect the Trump age 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.
“We live in a world where retailers are finding themselves having to become more politically responsive — whether they like it or not,” he 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.”