Upset with Trump the president, consumers boycott Trump the brand
Last week, Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka Trump brand, reporting that the brand’s sales were down and that it no longer made “good business sense” to carry it: according to market research firm Slice Intelligence, Nordstrom’s e-commerce sales of the clothing brand dropped 66 percent from November and December 2015 to November and December 2016.
A day after Nordstrom abandoned the brand, luxury retailer Neiman Marcus removed Ivanka Trump’s high-end jewelry line from their website. And on Wednesday, The New York Times reported that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls told employees to throw away signs advertising the Ivanka Trump brand, a move seen as an attempt to distance the company from the Trump name.
Besides carrying the Trump brand, these companies had one thing in common: They were on the “Grab Your Wallet” boycott list. Those upset with Trump the president, feeling unheard and discontented, are using their wallets to protest by boycotting Trump the brand — and other companies associated with it.
“Consumer boycotts are not new,” Nancy Koehn of Harvard Business School told the PBS NewsHour, but the breadth and speed of this consumer activism is.
Uber also found itself in the crosshairs of the boycott following Trump’s executive order that temporarily stopped immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspended the U.S. refugee program. The order brought protests at airports around the country, and was halted by a federal stay this week.
On Jan. 28, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance stopped service to and from the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, in a show of support for immigrants detained at the airport, but Uber continued to offer rides and removed its surge pricing. Within hours, #DeleteUber began trending on Twitter, and in the following days, more than 200,000 users deleted their accounts, The New York Times reported.
The bad publicity led Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to quit Trump’s economic advisory board and set aside $3 million for a legal defense fund for immigrant drivers. (Uber has since been removed from the Grab Your Wallet list.)
The Grab Your Wallet campaign began after the Washington Post first reported on an audio recording of Trump bragging about “grabbing” women by the genitals.
By Oct. 11, four days after that report, brand specialist Shannon Coulter had begun a boycott campaign on Twitter with #GrabYourWallet, a not-so-subtle reference to the tape. A spreadsheet lists over 50 companies to boycott based on whether the company sells Trump products, whether C-suite leaders or board members fundraised for Trump, and whether it sponsors the new Celebrity Apprentice, where Trump is still a paid executive producer.
The list includes Macy’s, LL Bean, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, Zappos, Amazon, T. J. Maxx, Lord & Taylor and Bed Bath & Beyond. And companies such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Jet, have been removed from the list after they stopped carrying Trump products.
“I felt some ambivalence doing any business with any business that does business with the Trump family,” Coulter said.
In addition to those impacted by the immigration ban, there’s another swath of the population with impressive buying power who have protested Trump by the thousands: Women.
“Women hold the purse strings — this has been true for a long, long time,” Koehn said.
Trump’s sexist comments preceded the enacting of legislation that directly affects reproductive rights. In his first week in office, and two days after the global Women’s March, Trump signed the “Mexico City policy,” prohibiting overseas health organizations that receive American aid from supporting or performing abortions.
Meanwhile, women, a majority of whom voted for Hillary Clinton, are the major decision makers on more than 70 percent of household consumption and make as much as 85 percent of all consumer purchases. (And as it’s been often noted, although 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, 94 percent of black women and 68 percent of Hispanic women voted for Clinton.)
Ivanka Trump’s brand, which targets young professional women, is taking a particularly hard hit.
“Women’s economic empowerment was at the center of [Ivanka Trump’s] brand, while she was advocating for a misogynist — the likes of which we had never seen,” said Coulter, noting that Ivanka Trump continued to campaign for her father after the Hollywood Access tape was released.
As Hayley Garrison Phillips writes in the Washingtonian, “educated working young women with disposable incomes in fashion-forward urban areas” — her targeted customers — “are not the Trump name’s core constituents.”
While it’s nothing new to have women at the core of a boycott, what’s unique about this boycott is that it is in “resistance or opposition to the current administration,” Koehn said.
“We have never had a president who’s consistently unwilling to adhere to the ethics stipulations, the spirit of laws, regulations, the emoluments clause in the Constitution. He’s making an ongoing choice to have his business and his family’s business mixed in with the presidency,” said Koehn. “This wouldn’t have nearly the power, the pull, the magnitude, if the president and his family had really divested themselves from their businesses as they make governing decisions for the country.”
Trump hasn’t been quiet on the assault on his family’s businesses. After Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s brand, Trump tweeted: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
On Thursday, Kellyanne Conway doubled down on the same message and appeared on Fox and Friends, where she stated: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you … I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody.”
Later in the day, the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics asking them to investigate Conway’s endorsement.
Chairman Chaffetz & Rep. Cummings letter to OGE regarding Kellyanne Conway's endorsement of Ivanka Trump's product line ↓ pic.twitter.com/JUF37OkRU5
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) February 9, 2017
It’s not clear whether the boycott will slow in the near future. In reaction to Nordstrom dropping the Ivanka Trump brand, a #BoycottNordstrom hashtag took off among Trump supporters, continuing a dizzying pace of boycotts and counter-boycotts.
“The fires aren’t cooling,” said Koehn. In fact, she said, they’re fanned with every response from Trump.
“We may have lost at the ballot box,” Coulter said, “but we can vote at the cash register every day.”