Donald Trump, Nordstrom, Ivanka Trump: How politics now play into the retail customer experience

Feb. 10, 2017 | by Judy Mottl

Photo courtesy of Nordstrom

Way, way, way back in the day, after sitting in a high school history class, I decided to boycott a soda maker given its actions regarding South Africa's government.

Decades later, I boycotted a particular brand of clothing after media reports of the company using child labor in its supply chain.

But never once, having voted in presidential elections since 1979, have I ever boycotted a brand or a retailer due to an American administration's leadership.

And I'm not going to start now.

Before I explain why, let's recap what's been transpiring since President Donald Trump was elected this past November within the realm of the retail environment over the past decade or so.

More consumers than ever are shopping with a conscious: they're supporting retailers whose policies align with their beliefs; they're willing to spend more with specific retailers whose products are not born from child-filled factories despite more economical sellers; they're speaking out on social media when a retailer steps out of line (think Dolce & Gabbana's nasty tweet about Lady Gaga's body during her halftime Super Bowl show).

In simple terms, social media and the internet have given consumers the loudest and biggest mouthpiece to project their views and feelings and actions.

That's what happening with the ongoing saga of Nordstrom, Ivanka Trump's clothing brand, and President Trump (Ivanka's dad).

For background: Ivanka Trump launched her jewelry collection in 2007, with a brand slogan of "Women Who Work." Then, a few years later, she branched out to shoes and handbags, then apparel, fragrance and accessories. Her brand landed at top retailers and still remains at Bloomies, Macy's, Amazon and Lord & Taylor.

But that list of re-seller retailers is a bit shorter now. And it shouldn't be.

In October, 2016, a social media protest, called #GrabYourWallet, hit the viral super information highway.

The focus was to pressure retailers doing business with any Trump business or brand to stop doing business and calling for a boycott if retailers didn't cut ties.

Then came the election, the retail holiday sales season and the inauguration. And a stunned nation began digesting the fact that Donald Trump was president.

Then came reports that, way back in November, Shoes.com had quietly pulled Ivanka's brand products off its shelves, citing consumer demand and also telling Fast Company they weren't selling well.

Also in quiet fashion, Neiman Marcus, as reported by Business Insider, stopped selling fashion jewelry items from Trump's line.

And then came the Nordstrom news.

And it is not as quiet by any means.

In the first week of February, Nordstrom announced it was pulling Ivanka's brand as a featured brand in its stores (some early reports stated it was being pulled out of stores all together but updated media coverage revealed otherwise) and placing the products on racks and shelves with other merchandise.

Basically, it's selling the inventory it has in stock and not promoting the brand within its own stores. The reason, stated Nordstrom's, was pretty simple: failure of sales to meet expectations.

"Each year we cut about 10 percent [of brands carried] and refresh our assortment with about the same amount," a Nordstrom representative told Business Insider. "In this case, based on the brand's performance, we've decided not to buy it for this season."

About a week later, on Wednesday (Feb. 8), Ivanka's dad, President Trump, lashed out at Nordstrom, via his official @POTUS account, claiming the retailer treated his daughter Ivanka unfairly: "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!"

In response, on the same day, Nordstrom released a statement: "Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn't make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now.”

Now here's is where I'm going to explain why I won't be among those consumers boycotting retailers for any political-related reason (at least at this point) and why I don't judge retailers who are bowing to social media protests and those who are not.

Political social media boycotts only hurt retailers.

Those calling for consumers to boycott Ivanka's brand because of her father is only hurting both the retailer and the reseller and in my humble opinion, there's just no valid justification for that, especially as the retail industry is already a bit under siege.

If I don't like Mr. Trump, I can express that a million ways and become an activist online and offline. If I don't like Ivanka's clothing (which, by the way, I do) I can just choose not to buy it. If I find out she's employing child labor or funding anti-American interests, then I'll be on board with a boycott.

But protests calling for her brand to be pulled just because of who her father is and the shenanigans of his administration isn't good or nice or fair. And now, more than ever, our country, our citizens, must strive to be nice, and fair and compassionate and intelligent.

Thankfully, Nordstrom's business decision, which it has every right to make and which by all accounts is not a political decision or even social media knee jerk response, isn't losing the retailer money.

Right after Trump called Nordstrom's decision "terrible," Nordstrom's stock dipped 0.5 percent. But four minutes later, according to The Hill, the stock price jumped 4 percent. The spike, as Seattle Times noted, was the sixth best day on the market in the past 12 months.

Nordstrom also remains the favorite fashion retailer, according to the new Market Force Information retail survey. (Dillard's placed second and T.J. Maxx ranked third).

Basically, there should have been no social media call for a boycott just as there was no reason for President Trump to take a bully jab at Nordstrom. If anyone had a right to jab it would be Ivanka, and she and her brand have been completely silent on what's taken place.

But Ivanka, who seems to be a smart, intelligent and savvy entrepreneur, likely knows the best action in this scenario is no action. In fact, her brand is likely happy for all the media coverage — free media coverage, which as we all know, was a key element in her father's successful election.

What I do hope is that President Trump puts as much focus and interest on helping the business sector, especially the retail segment, which is the largest employer in the U.S., to advance and grow. That's what Ivanka's brand represents after all — a retailer representing that growth.

If you don't like her Trump product brand, no one is forcing you to buy it. We're still a democratic capitalistic society where choice is all about freedom.

But no one should force Ivanka's brand out of stores or off shelves because they don't like her father and his policies. The sins of a father should never become the burden of a daughter or a son or a spouse for that matter.


Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Financial News, Merchandising, Trends / Statistics



Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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