BY ANNE D’INNOCENZIO
NEW YORK (AP) — Sears and Kmart have evicted “a very small number” of Trump-branded items from their online stores, but won’t specify how many and emphasize that hundreds of products are still available through their third-party online marketplaces.
It’s another sign of how companies are trying to tread a careful line, after President Donald Trump rebuked Nordstrom publicly on his Twitter account for deciding to stop selling his daughter Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories line. He said Nordstrom had treated his daughter “so unfairly.” Ethics experts saw the comment as a threat to companies that carry the brand and may be weighing the question of whether to keep doing so.
Nordstrom had said in its announcement that the move was based on the brand’s falling sales over the past year, particularly in the last six months. A social media campaign called “Grab Your Wallet” has urged a boycott of stores that stock Ivanka Trump or Donald Trump products, which also include Amazon and Dillard’s.
Other companies that have been scaling back or dropping Trump merchandise are hoping to avoid a backlash or the boycott threats Nordstrom saw, issuing carefully crafted and brief statements if they address the mater at all. Belk Inc. said it will no longer carry Ivanka Trump items on its website, and QVC has said it no longer sells the merchandise. Macy’s Inc., which carries the Ivanka Trump brand, hasn’t responded to multiple queries by The Associated Press. And Lord & Taylor has only said it currently carries the brand.
This tiptoeing is in response to politically active shoppers who are using their purchasing power to punish retailers or reward them based on their political beliefs, a trend that has become more high-profile with Donald Trump’s presidency.
Sears Holdings Inc.’s announcement Monday followed weekend reports that it had dropped 31 Trump products from its website. The company did not respond to queries then and referred questions for specifics back to its prepared statement.
“We, like all retailers, constantly add and remove products from our offerings,” Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said on the company’s blog. “In this case, certain products were removed from our websites that included a very small number of Trump products. But any fair observer who searches for Trump or Ivanka Trump on Sears.com would find hundreds of products available for purchase.”
Sears can ill-afford to alienate customers. The faltering retail chain said last week it may sell more locations, cut more jobs and put more of its famous brands on the block. The Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based retailer has been losing money for years and has received millions from its hedge fund-founder CEO to keep it afloat. Brathwaite said the company monitors products, adding items that are in demand and removing products with declining demand.
The Ivanka Trump brand has said it saw sales growth of 21 percent in 2016 from the previous year as it expanded its categories, distribution and offerings. “In recent days, we’ve seen our brand swept into the political fray, becoming collateral damage in others’ efforts to advance agendas unrelated to what we do,” the company said.
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