It is undeniable that Donald Trump’s presidency is one of the most controversial in America’s political history, with the world closely following his every move (and tweet). However, despite Trump’s electoral success, scepticism over his candidacy has quickly stemmed from his deemed racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and islamophobic worldviews. The increasingly prevalent anti-Trump movement is making themselves heard, whether this is through the iconic Woman’s march drawing millions of protestors or the thousands of people who flooded international airports to protest Trump’s Executive Order, it is now clear that America is politically, a divided nation.
The anti-Trump movement has been gaining traction, with their latest protest shaking up America’s retail scene; a protest under the hashtag #grabyourwallet, asks anti-Trump supporters to flex their consumer power and boycott corporations that stock the Trump brand. The boycott is a play on Donald Trump’s contentious “grab them by the P*****” video that was released in October 2016. A 45-year old marketing executive and political activist, Shannon Coulter started the boycott, to ensure consumers stopped supporting retailers that supported Trump. Coulter created a comprehensive list of retailers who initially stocked the Trump brand, including retail giants such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bed Bath & Beyond and more. The spreadsheet includes company customer service numbers, emails and PR managers and encourages consumers to contact the stores and demand they discontinue selling the Trump brand. The campaign has been well received by the twitter community, with Twitter analytics estimating the hashtag has reached an audience of over 183million people.
So what does this all mean for retailers? A CONUNDRUM!
With such a mass audience, the boycott has led to increased turbulence within America’s retail scene placing large retailers in a conundrum. If companies do stock Trump products, they risk the wrath of consumer boycotts and a wave of negative press from the anti-Trump movement. On the other hand, if these retailers do decide to discontinue stocking Trump products due to political or ‘strategic’ decisions, they face the threat of an aggressive tweet from the President himself. The impacts felt by luxury department store chain Nordstrom. Although Trump stated he would be taking a “hands-off” approach to his family businesses throughout his presidency, he was quick to tweet a contemptuous critique of Nordstrom after their decision to discontinue Ivanka Trump’s brand, despite the announcement they were discontinuing the brand due to poor performance, not external political pressures.
Trump’s extremely active Twitter account has become an international ‘news’ platform with an audience of over 25 million followers. Trump’s critique of Nordstrom panicked investors and Trump supports and evidently led to the Nordstrom share falling steeply within an hour of the tweet. Despite the rapid share decline, Nordstrom closed up more than 4%+ at the end of the day. The impact of Trump’s tweets effecting the share market is a phenomenon now being labelled as the “Trump effect” with a number of companies also feeling the wrath of the president’s quick tweeting thumbs, including Boeing, Carrier and Amazon who suffered similar results after Trump tweeted about flaws in their business models.
So the question becomes, are retailers dumping Trump as a response to fuelled consumer rage or a change in their business strategy? Well, since the campaign launch Nordstrom, Kmart Corp, Sears Holdings, Neiman Marcus, Belk, Wayfair, Bellacor, Shopstyle and many others have discontinued Trump products, too many to be just a ‘coincidence’. Despite brands reaching out stating their decision to ‘dump Trump’ was purely strategical based on low sales performance, co-president of Nordstrom Pete Nordstrom summed it up nicely stating that “every single brand we offer is evaluated on their results- if people don’t buy it, we won’t sell it.” The impact of which can be seen below, with the steep decline in the number of Trump brand items for sale from retailers who have been targeted by the campaign.
It is hard to accurately measure the true economic impact of the campaign, however, according to Fast Company Ivanka Trump’s brand has seen a 54% decrease in interest since campaign launch, evident through the image below portraying an Ivanka Trump jumper on sale for only $1.
Below are a list of retailers who have felt the full extent of the “Trump Effect:”
Under Armour CEO Kevin plank stated that having a president (Trump) who was pro-business was a “real asset” for the country. Kevin’s remark was met by a huge wave of resistance, which was reflected through a drastic decline in share price. Under Armour had to release an official media release apologising for the remark and reinforcing that the company engages in policy, not politics yet are advocates for fair trade and inclusive immigration.
New Balance- People are burning their shoes?
Matthew LeBretton, head of public affairs at New Balance reported that the Obama administration neglected the company, and that president-elect Trump would move things in the right direction. Just one week after this announcement New Balance’s sales decreased by 25% and in an obscure social media movement, led consumers to burn their shoes in protest.
Whilst some retailers have decided to take an apolitical stance in relation to Trump, some are actively rallying against the president. Uber’s CEO Kalanick decided Uber would compensate drivers for earnings lost if they were unable to commence their working duties due to Trump’s Executive Bill.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky also announced free housing to refugees and individuals impacted my Trump’s Bill and immigration crackdown.
Howard Schultz, chief executive at Starbucks promised to promote multiculturalism and support internationals by the promise to hire 10,000 refugees within the next 5 years.
Shoes.com was one of the first retailer’s to overtly dump Trump for political reasons stating, “We understand and your voices have been heard. We have removed the products from our website,” Shoes.com.
Sergey Brin from Google and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have also publically criticised Trump’s political agenda.
We all knew that Trump’s controversial presidency would shake things up a bit, yet who knew his status would have already re-shaped the American retail landscape. Whilst some retailers have chosen to get political, others have ever so conveniently chosen to swiftly change their strategic direction and discontinue the Trump brand. It can be foreshadowed that no, this boycott alone will not be enough to stop all that is ‘Trumpism,’ however its hard to argue that their campaigns effective resistance is a step in the right direction in making a dent in America’s political, economic, financial and retail markets. So what is the future of retail under Trump? It’s uncertain. Which poses the question:
In order to stay relevant and competitive in the future, will all retailers have to get political?