President Donald Trump’s turbulent first weeks in office have coincided with the decline of his daughter, Ivanka’s, clothing brand.
Ivanka Trump’s eponymous company, known for its formal pantsuits, handbags and heels, has been dropped by the likes of Nordstrom (JWN) and Neiman Marcus, with other off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (TJX) instructing their employees not to display her products prominently and to strip the stores of Ivanka Trump ads.
Even before Trump’s election, the Ivanka Trump brand was becoming less relevant and growing out of touch with her target demo. That demographic, working professional women, is opting for comfortable athleisure over conservative dresses.
Of course, it also doesn’t help that her father is a polarizing figure, even igniting campaigns like #GrabYourWallet, which highlights companies that sell Trump-related products (and pushes consumers to stop buying them).
A NEW STRATEGY FOR IVANKA TRUMP’S BRAND?
“I think the brand can still succeed. The perfect venue is in-home shopping,” Jessica Bornn, an analyst at Merchant Forecast, a research provider for investors in retail, told Yahoo Finance.
“In a department store, Ivanka Trump products won’t stand out in a sea of hundreds of others. I think there are still people who like her formal aesthetic and that look, but not at the department store level. The only real avenue will be online or on TV,” she added.
Still, HSN, or the Home Shopping Network, (HSNI) has never carried Ivanka Trump products, according to a company spokesperson, and it seems highly unlikely that it would start now. Last week, the broadcast TV network pulled its Trump Home products from its offerings, citing a “decline in demand.”
The statement read: “At QVC, we pride ourselves on curating an ever-changing mix of products from thousands of brands for our customers to discover. As part of this, QVC has offered items from Melania Trump’s brand. At this time, QVC does not have an active relationship with the brand.”
If more retailers continue to drop Ivanka Trump’s line because of lagging sales, the company will have a hard time finding a home. While the brand could survive if it revamps its sales strategy, that’s still a longshot in a world where the Trump name has become a liability.
Even if in-home platforms like QVC and HSN could serve as ideal partners for Ivanka Trump’s brand, she may not be able to forge these relationships if the companies are actively avoiding affiliations with Trump and the scrutiny of customers unhappy with Ivanka’s conflicts of interest.
Those conflicts have gained scrutiny as people connected to the new president have pushed Ivanka Trump’s products on cable television and social media. Even before the election, Ivanka Trump took to Twitter to advertise the $138 blush dress she wore to the RNC last summer. The dress immediately sold out.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 22, 2016
In another instance, in a “60 Minutes” interview post-election, Ivanka Trump sported a $10,000 bracelet from her own line. Immediately following the interview, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry vice president Monica Marder sent a “fashion alert” to journalists promoting the bracelet. “The bracelet costs $8,800 to $10,800. Please share with your clients,” read the email.
White House as QVC. It has started. pic.twitter.com/jk0DeQJ9vV
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) November 15, 2016
New York Times journalist Eric Lipton tweeted that we’re experiencing “White House as QVC,” an accurate premonition of the shameless plugging to come this month as the brand experienced difficulties at major retailers.
After Nordstrom said it would no longer carry the Ivanka Trump line, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway plugged the brand on Fox News last week, stating: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I’m going to just, I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”
The comment sparked the Office of Government Ethics to recommend that the White House probe and take action against Conway for endorsing Ivanka Trump’s products.
Ironically, these “free advertisements” may have hurt the brand. “The fact that she’s so closely associated with him and Trump’s counselor gave her a free commercial…none of that has helped her. It all just hurt her,” Paula Rosenblum, co-founder and managing partner at Florida-based Retail Systems Research (RSR), told Yahoo Finance.
THERE’S LITTLE HOPE FOR THE IVANKA TRUMP BRAND
Though Ivanka announced she would no longer be part of the leadership team a few days after her father was elected president, her familial affiliations have materially hurt the company.
While the brand’s recent Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus snubs may have gotten a lot of press, its biggest problem is not that high-end stores have parted ways the Ivanka Trump line. It’s that low-cost retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s started to abandon her, too, according to Bornn.
“Her brand is mid-tier. I don’t know why it was at Neiman or Nordstrom in the first place. One of the biggest blows to the business was when off-price channels turned on them,” she said.
Rosenblum echoed a similar sentiment: “The most fascinating thing to me is that discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Burlington Coat Factory don’t see a place for her. Now there’s no place to put the markdowns. She’s not an iconic brandmaker, so the fashion world won’t miss her.”
In the end, Ivanka Trump may not be able to do much at all to save her brand other than hope that she can maintain her relationships with the remaining retail partners. But she may have too glaring of a Scarlet letter to forge any new partners.
“All they can do is keep producing a decent product, wait it out and see what happens. Given the times we live in, I don’t think this will just blow over. If it doesn’t, the brand will finally wither away,” said Kniffen. “It seems farfetched that any other company would want to purchase it.”