Ivanka Trump's brand hit with boycott as women urged to #GrabYourWallet
When Shannon Coulter was feeling distressed after the release of the now-famous Trump tapes in which the Republican presidential candidate was heard bragging about being able to do "anything you want" to a woman when you're famous, even "grab them by the p***y", she did something she often does when stressed out: online shopping.
But browsing on the website for Nordstrom, a major US department store, she found she couldn't escape the Trump campaign. The store is one of many that sells clothing by Ivanka Trump, the candidate's eldest daughter, who is not only an executive vice-president at the Trump Organisation and an entrepreneur in her own right, but also one of his most loyal and effective political surrogates.
"I just started to think out about that out loud on Twitter," Coulter said. "Like, I don't know how I feel about supporting a store that's profiting from Trump products at this point."
While discussing her discomfort on social media, she encountered a couple of other women who were feeling similarly conflicted about buying Ivanka products or supporting stores that sold them. So Coulter decided to do something, and a boycott of these stores was born.
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While Donald Trump's campaign has long been in tension with some of his business interests – department store Macy's dropped his own menswear line after he launched his campaign with an incendiary speech about Mexican immigrants and reports that foot traffic is down at his hotels continue to grow – there are signs it is now also tarnishing his daughter's carefully crafted brand and interests.
The boycott organised by Coulter, a branding and digital strategist from California, has coalesced under her hashtag #GrabYourWallet and is targeting a list of stores that stock Trump's products.
"I hope to be taking some names off that list soon," Coulter said. "I hope that at least one store will be dropping the fashions of the Trump campaign's top surrogate very soon, in solidarity with the women Trump was talking about on that tape and the women who have come forward since then."
Since the Donald Trump campaign launched last June, Ivanka Trump has tried to walk an increasingly difficult line. On the one hand, she has been both as a representative and supporter of her father's firebrand anti-immigration, anti-establishment campaign, trying to soften and modernise his image with women and millennial voters, and vouching for her father's good character in the face of mounting evidence of boorish and sexist behaviour.
At the same time, she has continued to build her own lifestyle and fashion brand, which markets girlish workwear to urban, white-collar women. She also has an online professional community called #WomenWhoWork. The clothing line alone reaped more than $US100 million in sales last financial year, according to figures quoted by Forbes.
Like her father, Ivanka Trump saw marketing opportunities earlier in the campaign: the wore one of her own dresses to the Republican convention, which she pushed for sale on Twitter the next day, and has talked up her forthcoming book, also called Women Who Work, while promoting her father's child care and maternity leave policy.
But the boycott is one indication that those two roles have long since collided and now appear to be backfiring.
Measuring the effect of the boycott at this stage is difficult – neither Trump's representatives nor seven of the major retailers which stock her products responded to requests for comment. A representative told Cosmopolitan sales and ad revenue grew 37 per cent over 2015.
But since launching the campaign, Coulter, who is a Clinton supporter, says her hashtag has had over 2 million impressions in less than a fortnight. All the major retailers that stock Ivanka's line are being targeted, including Macy's, Bloomingdales and Amazon.
As it gather pace on social media, the campaign has received increasing attention in the US media, including from mainstream publications popular with young women such as Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine and People.
Few things as disappointing as spotting a cute pair of shoes at Bloomingdales before realizing they're Ivanka Trump https://t.co/2AYJP2HOLs— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) October 23, 2016
A call-in segment on local WNYC radio station this week attracted a series of young women who said they had already decided to stop buying Ivanka Trump apparel before the boycott was launched because of their unhappiness with her role in her father's campaign.
"I used to get a few of her clothes at Marshalls, they actually are really cute … but now when I see that cute dress and see that label, I put it right back on the rack. I just have no interest in supporting the Trump rhetoric," said one woman.
"[Ivanka] has not spoken out at all about the anti-Semitism that her father has engendered in his campaign … I find that very offensive and, yes, I will never buy another Ivanka Trump-branded item again," said another.
Asked whether it might be unfair to punish Ivanka for her father's deeds, Coulter rejected the idea that Ivanka was simply the daughter of the candidate caught up in controversy.
"I would completely agree with that sentiment were she not a campaign surrogate," she said.
"And not only a campaign surrogate, but one who has returned to campaigning for him in the wake of the Trump tapes … especially as a woman who is trying to make female empowerment a part of her brand."
Trump herself, at Fortune's Most Powerful Women summit in California last week, was defensive about being called a campaign surrogate.
"I'm not the candidate, I'm not an adviser. I'm a daughter," she said.
But she has continued to appear at campaign events, including one where she made light of his propensity for controversy.
"He is not politically correct. And I think we love that about him, right?" Trump joked at an event in Wisconsin last week. "Ninety ... seven per cent of the time?"
Carol Spieckerman, a US retail and branding expert, said that while last year it was conceivable Ivanka's brand could escape the turmoil of her father's campaign unscathed, that seems increasingly less likely now.
"It's undeniable that her market is 100 per cent women, and that anything that reflects badly on the Trump brand in relation to women will directly impact her," she said.
But she said it was possible that in time – when the campaign was over – Ivanka would be able to salvage her brand: "If anybody in the family is going to be resilient, it would be hard to bet against her."
- Sydney Morning Herald