Nordstrom drops Ivanka Trump brand: Business or politics?

The high-end retailer cites poor sales for dropping the first daughter's line, but after months of boycott campaigns, the decision appears to have a political edge to it.

Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press/AP
Ivanka Trump models an outfit following a March 6, 2015 interview to promote her clothing line in Toronto. On Feb. 2, 2017, Nordstrom said that it will stop selling Ivanka Trump clothing and accessories.

Department store chain Nordstrom said on Thursday that it will not be selling this season’s line of Ivanka Trump merchandise, following months of controversy over what some see as conflicts of interest between her business and political connections.

The company said poor sales had led to its decision to wind down its relationship with Ms. Trump’s brand. But after months of pressure by the #GrabYourWallet campaign to boycott all retailers with Trump brands, it has also raised questions of whether the move might have a political edge to it, a trend that has become more common in the fashion sector, an industry that has traditionally opted to stay clear of politics.

“We’ve got thousands of brands,” a Nordstrom spokesperson told The Seattle Times.“Each year we cut about 10 percent and refresh our assortment with about the same amount. In this case, based on the brand’s performance we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”

The company did not indicate whether the move to stop buying the Ivanka Trump Brand would be permanent, saying “we make buying decisions season by season.”

Back in November, Nordstrom co-president Pete Nordstrom sent an email to employees saying that he heard from customers on both sides of the issue who said they were preparing to boycott the company. Trump supporters vowed to stop shopping at the store if the line were to be pulled, and opponents said they would do the same if Ivanka Trump merchandise remained.

“This is a sharply divisive subject,” he said. “No matter what we do, we are going to end up disappointing some of our customers. Every single brand we offer is evaluated on their results – if people don’t buy it, we won’t sell it.”

But Shannon Coulter, a co-founder of the #GrabYourWallet online boycott campaign, which started last October after tapes emerged of President Trump making lewd comments about women, saw Nordstrom’s decision as a victory.

“I am absolutely thrilled, and I know the vast majority of Grab Your Wallet participants will be as well,” she said, according to The Seattle Times.

The fashion world has become increasingly entangled in politics since Mr. Trump’s election last November.

In the lead-up to Inauguration Day, Melania Trump had fewer options to choose from than former first lady Michelle Obama, after some designers refused to work with the Trump family on political grounds.

Rejecting an opportunity to dress the first lady is a big deal for designers who are missing out on substantial industry exposure and a spike in sales.

"The impact of the first lady is really, really powerful," Naeem Khan, an Indian-born American designer who has dressed Michelle Obama close to 20 times, told the Associated Press. "It turned us into a global business."

Outdoor clothing chain L.L. Bean got in a tangle with #GrabYourWallet earlier this year, following Federal Election Commission allegations that L.L. Bean heiress and board member Linda Bean had exceeded legal donation limits by about $55,000 to a political action committee that supported Donald Trump.

“I understand why L.L. Bean is concerned, but they need to face the reality there are repercussions for their company’s brand and bottom line when consumers learn what their leaders are up to in terms of their politics,” Ms. Coulter told the Portland Press Herald in January. “If L.L. Bean thinks a part-owner and board member can engage in this activity and have it not affect their bottom line, that’s very naive.”

But Shawn Gorman, the company’s executive chairman, countered that idea in a Facebook statement.

“Our owners, employees, and customers hold views and embrace causes that are individual and diverse,” Mr. Gorman wrote. “We are united by our love for the outdoors and our guiding principles established back in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean himself who believed ‘do unto others’ was not just a saying, but a way of life.”

Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump’s brand seems relatively undeterred by the Nordstrom hiccup, according to the Seattle Times, having recently expanded into baby bedding and fashion jewelry.

When the controversy over Nordstrom selling her brand ramped up in November, the company responded via Twitter to an open letter by a customer asking the company to stop carrying the brand.

“We hope that offering a vendor’s products isn’t misunderstood as us taking a political position; we’re not,” Nordstrom said at the time. “We recognize our customers can make choices about what they purchase based on personal views and we’ll continue to give them options.”

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