Retailers can't escape Trump-related turmoil
Turmoil surrounding the Ivanka Trump brand continues this week as Sears Holdings clarified that, while it removed a “very small number of Trump products” for sale on its Sears and Kmart websites, its marketplace sellers offer a slew of Trump-branded products.
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump items have disappeared from off-price retailer Burlington’s website, according to Business Insider. A request for comment or clarification from Retail Dive was not immediately returned by Burlington on Tuesday.
Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, insists that sales are good: "The Ivanka Trump brand continues to expand across categories and distribution with increased customer support, leading us to experience significant year-over-year revenue growth in 2016," Rosemary K. Young, Senior Director of Marketing at Ivanka Trump, wrote in an email to Retail Dive. "We believe that the strength of a brand is measured not only by the profits it generates, but the integrity it maintains. The women behind the brand represent a diverse group of professionals and we are proud to say that the Ivanka Trump brand continues to embody the principles upon which it was founded. It is a company built to inspire women with solution-oriented offerings, created to celebrate and service the many aspects of their lives.”
For years, Ivanka Trump has enjoyed the benefits of being a Trump while also keeping a distance from her father’s realm. While now-President Donald Trump has long operated with a reality show, beauty pageant-gilded penthouse glamour, Ivanka could often be seen stepping out of Trump Tower in the morning in New York wearing her own brand's tasteful mid-market clothes and projecting a millennial, womanpower (if not exactly feminist) sensibility.
That arguably helped boost her father’s campaign, during which she had a influential voice. But now that her father is a president facing protests and a series of political challenges, that active participation seems to have taken a toll on her brand. Moves from the likes of Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and others to pull Trump products may be the result of a boycott from the #GrabYourWallet campaign, which has called for some 50 retailers to stop selling products with the Trump name. Even those retailers still selling Ivanka Trump merchandise appear to be are moving it along with the help of hefty discounts, as tracked by Teen Vogue magazine.
It’s been difficult for retailers to quietly drop Trump-related products, as Sears and Kmart noted, because news outlets are closely tracking availability. But, while many brands have traditionally been loathe to take a stand, out of fear of alienating customers, a political stance is emerging as helpful, according to pubic affairs firm Global Strategy Group.
“Americans are looking to corporations to lead on the issues of the day,” according to an email from Global Strategy Group, which conducted a study of consumer reaction to Super Bowl ads this year, many of which were political, or perceived to be. “From CEOs protesting at airports to Super Bowl ads opposing Trump’s immigration ban, we are seeing unprecedented political activism from corporations. While this level of activism may present challenges with the new Administration, Americans are clear that they want corporations to engage in the political debate.”
Sears said that it dropped Trump merchandise in the normal course of evaluating what to sell or not to sell, and pointed to the availability on its marketplace. That could be a reflection that its customers have a range of opinions on this — or of its own uncertainty about how to react.
How far a brand should take any political stance requires solid understanding of its customers, according to retail futurist Doug Stephens, who says that most will be expected to take a stand of some kind. “Given the social, moral and ethical tumult created by Trump’s candidacy and now his presidency, brands are increasingly having to weigh in," he told Retail Dive last week. "This means that brands, more than ever, have to know and intimately understand their customer base. [Starbucks CEO] Howard Shultz, for example, likely had a very good sense that his customers would largely support his position on refugee hiring. Shultz tends to have a good gut for his customers’ sensibilities. This keen knowledge of customers is now table-stakes for CEOs in a politically charged climate.”
- Sears blog Sears Holdings Responds To Weekend Headlines
- Business Insider Burlington is the latest retailer to drop Ivanka Trump's brand online
Follow Daphne Howland on Twitter