When Politics and Retail Collide

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Retailers are continuing the “dump Trump” trend, at least in terms of products bearing his family name, as the controversial businessman-turned-president makes moves executives have concerns about – or as they anticipate or experience customer blowback.

[Related: Amazon Called to Dump Trump Merchandise]

For example, major retailers like Nordstrom said they will discontinue Ivanka Trump’s products, citing declining sales. Business Insider reported that a Nordstrom shopper in October wrote a letter to the retailer stating that Ivanka Trump’s products were “toxic” and demanding that Nordstrom stop selling them.

[Related: Trump Beating Clinton….In Ecommerce Merchandise Searches]

Ivanka Trump’s products have similarly disappeared from Neiman Marcus’s website as of the end of January; the company has not made any public statements explaining the decision.

Other brands that have removed Trump products – father or daughter – include Home Shopping Network, Shoes.com, Wayfair, Belk and Jet.com.

The question I have in this historically divided, superheated environment is this: Does retail have a place in politics, or should it? I’m not sure. As folks across the political spectrum purchase their goods, retailers may risk alienating one group as they seek to mollify another. Or perhaps in this era of big data, they have enough demographic information on their customers to do the risk/reward calculus and pull the trigger.

Macy’s was ahead of the curve on this, pulling Trump’s menswear line in 2015 after controversial remarks he made about Mexican immigrants. The company stood by its decision after Trump won the presidency. In a statement at the time Macy’s said, “We welcome all customers and respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture. We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico…. In light of statements made by Donald Trump, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship.”

[Related: Macy’s Dumps Trump]

Is this exodus from Trump about the customers or the integrity of the brand? It seems that more retailers are more concerned with a public perception that selling Trump products is a de facto endorsement of the president’s policies and ideology.

[Related: Macy’s Under Pressure to Dump Trump]

Another issue behind the phenomenon could be Trump’s controversial position on free trade and protectionism, including threats to impose a 20% tariff on imported goods if U.S. companies decamp to markets where production is less expensive, like Mexico. This decision would hit retailers and consumers especially hard as higher costs are passed along, dampening sales and/or impacting margins.

Should retailers be punishing Trump’s family? By removing Ivanka Trump’s products from their websites, they’re punishing the daughter for the father’s behavior. She and her husband Jared Kushner – a key adviser to President Trump – could not be closer to the political line of fire, so for many retailers the brand is just too hot to touch.

Stay tuned, as this issue is far from over.

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