The latest retailer to join the "anti-Trump resistance", is also the one which despite being closest to death managed to crush short sellers on Friday after its stock soared on the announcement of yet another hail ymary restructuring: according to Reuters, Sears and Kmart are discontinuing online sales of 31 Trump Home items.
An obvious publicity stunt meant to distract the public's attention from the company's chronic woes while hopefully attracting at least some of its discretionary dollars, Sears and subsidiary Kmart disclosed their decision on Saturday, saying it was "part of a push to focus their online business on the most profitable items." Of course, considering that Sears' Q4 losses rose 16% to $635 million, one would be curious to learn just what those "most profitable" items are.
Neither Sears nor Kmart carried the Trump Home products in their retail stores, a Sears Holdings Corp spokesman said, which is why one wonders just how much of this decision was margin based, and how much, marketing.
"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. "Amid that streamlining effort, 31 Trump Home items were among the items removed online this week," he said, adding those items can be found through a third-party vendor, without providing additional information about the products.
The Trump Home collection includes lines of furniture, bedding and lighting, often from makers that supply Trump hotels, according to the collection's website.
In any case, the Trump "retail" image certainly suffered this past week, highlighted by Nordstrom's decision to stop carrying Ivanka Trump's products. The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that Nordstrom sales of Ivanka Trump's brand had dropped sharply before the retailer discontinued sales this week. Citing company data, WSJ reported that sales of Ivanka Trump's fashion line were off 26% year-over-year in January and fell as much as 70% in the weeks before the election.
The developments were the latest in a week of controversy swirling around commercial activity connected to the Trump name. And the moves may be a rare sign of companies taking calculated risks in making business decisions that might invite criticism from President Donald Trump's Twitter account: Nordstrom's stock soared the most in a year on the day of its twitter spat with the president because clearly there is no better publicity than being prominently named in Trump's timeline.
Neil Stern, a retail consultant for McMillan Doolittle, said Nordstrom may have felt insulated given its stores tend to be located in cities and affluent suburbs, which tend to tack Democratic. “If there is a political blowback they will survive it given where there stores are,” he said. Meanwhile, for Sears, which last month announced plans to close 150 stores, any publicity that draws attention away from the retailer's financial struggles is welcome, Stern added.
Elsewhere, on Friday three athletes sponsored by Under Armour took to social media to distance themselves from comments by the company's chief executive, Kevin Plank, in support of Trump.
Adding to Trump's retail troubles, earlier in the week, a congressional committee said it was seeking a review into whether senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway had violated ethics rules by using her position to promote Ivanka Trump's product lines. Prior to Conway's comments, Donald Trump used Twitter to defend his daughter in the wake of Nordstrom's decision to discontinue her product line. White House spokesman Sean Spicer characterized the Nordstrom move as a "direct attack" on the president's policies.
Nordstrom, in announcing the discontinuation of Ivanka Trump's line last week, said sales had "steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense" to continue selling the products.
Finally, for those curious which retailers are or are not still selling the Ivanka Trump brand, here it is courtesy of Bloomberg:
- Feb. 9 - Belk: Belk says it dropped Ivanka Trump from its online shop and most stores, but still offers the brand in its three flagship locations, according to AL.com.
- Feb. 8 – Nordstrom: President Trump lashes out at Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, calling the decision “terrible” and unfair to his daughter.
- Feb. 8 – TJ Maxx: TJ Maxx tells employees to get rid of all Ivanka Trump signage in its stores, according to a report by the New York Times.
- Feb. 7 – ShopStyle: Online fashion seller ShopStyle says in a statement that it removed Ivanka Trump’s line from its database because of a “decline in demand,” BuzzFeed reported.
- Feb. 6 – Jet.com: Online retailer Jet appears to drop Ivanka Trump’s products from its website, according to a report from Mic.
- Feb. 6 – Belk: Ivanka Trump items disappear from Belk’s website, according to Racked. The department store said in a statement that it made adjustments to its assortment “as part of our normal course of business operations.”
- Feb. 5 – Macy's: Macy’s falls under increased pressure from customers and employees to stop selling Ivanka Trump products.
- Feb 3. – Neiman Marcus: Ivanka Trump jewelry vanishes from the Neiman Marcus website. The company acknowledges in a statement that it has a “very small” Ivanka Trump consignment business that’s assessed by productivity.
- Feb. 2 – Nordstrom: Nordstrom confirms that it will stop selling the Ivanka Trump brand, citing poor sales.