Economy First Look

Sears, Kmart join other retailers in dropping Trump brands

Sears and its wholly owned subsidiary, Kmart, said that their stores are discontinuing online sales of 31 Trump Home items.

Shoppers walk into a Sears in Peabody, Mass., in 2012.
Elise Amendola/AP/File
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Sears and its subsidiary Kmart will be the latest retailers to drop Trump-branded products from their catalogues.

The retailers said on Saturday they will no longer offer Trump Home products online, an action they said is part of an effort to sell only their most profitable items on their website. Neither Sears nor Kmart sell the Trump Organization’s branded furniture and other home items in their stores.

Sears Holding’s announcements comes amid a #GrabYourWallet campaign, started in October, to boycott merchandise linked to the Trump name. Like Sears, other retail heavyweights including Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have said their decisions were driven by business, not politics. But internal Nordstrom data The Wall Street Journal reported on over the weekend shows that the two may be linked.

The data the Journal obtained shows sales of Ivanka Trump-licensed products in Nordstrom fell 32 percent last fiscal year, with declines steepening in the run-up to the presidential election on Nov. 8. At Nordstrom, Ivanka Trump footwear and apparel sales totaled $14.3 million in the fiscal year that ended in January, down from $20.9 million in the previous year. As Nordstrom was listed on the #GrabYourWallet boycott, the sales of the Ivanka Trump brand fell more than 70 percent in the second, third, and fourth weeks of October, compared with a year ago. The decline has steadied, averaging 26 percent year-over-year in January.  

“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,” Nordstrom said in a statement on Wednesday, ahead of the Journal report it declined to comment on.

Sears, too, said its discontinuation of Trump Home products was purely business.  

“As part of the company's initiative to optimize its online product assortment, we constantly refine that assortment to focus on our most profitable items," spokesman Brian Hanover said in a statement, according to Reuters.

"Amid that streamlining effort, 31 Trump Home items were among the items removed online this week," he said, adding that those items can be found through a third-party vendor.

On Monday morning, 18 Trump Home products were available on Sears’s website through third-party vendors. All of the items except a $962.78 floor lamp were discounted. On the Kmart website at around the same time, two Trump Home products were available through third-party vendors. Both of the products were heavily discounted.

Neil Stern, a retail consultant for McMillan Doolittle, told Reuters that any publicity that draws attention away from Sears’s financial woes is good news. The retailer announced last month that it plans to close 150 stores, 41 Sears outlet stores, and 109 Kmart stores, according to CNN. The announcement followed 78 store closings last year and more than 200 in 2015. Yet, even if Sears Holdings says politics didn’t play a part in the decision, the #GrabYourWallet campaign is gaining steam.

Around the same time Nordstrom said it was pulling Ivanka Trump products from its shelves, other retailers said they were also scaling back. The Belk department store chain said it plans to no longer offer Ivanka Trump products on its website, but it will continue to sell them in stores.

“We welcome and pay close attention to feedback from our customers,” Belk said in a statement. “We continually review our assortment and the performance of the brands we carry. We make adjustments as part of our normal course of business operations.”

The company that owns TJ Maxx and Marshalls also said that it recently sent a memo to workers, instructing them not to highlight the Ivanka Trump brand in stores, but did not provide a reason for those instructions, according to The New York Times.

Even before the final months of the presidential election, the Trump Organization faced calls for boycotts. In 2012, when President Trump questioned former President Barack Obama’s citizenship, a petition asking Macy’s to drop Mr. Trump’s clothing line collected 615,000 signatures. The department store refused that time, but dropped Trump’s menswear line when he made controversial claims about Mexican immigrants in 2015.

White House officials have said the latest actions by retailers are a direct attack against Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Mr. Trump lashed out at Nordstrom on Twitter last week, while press secretary Sean Spicer and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway also came to the younger Ms. Trump’s defense. A congressional committee is now urging an investigation into Ms. Conway, after she promoted Ivanka Trump’s apparel line on television last week, which appears to be a violation of federal law.

This report includes material from Reuters.