President Trump took to Twitter to bash Nordstrom over the retailer’s decision to stop carrying Ivanka Trump products. Trump even retweeted himself using the official presidential @POTUS Twitter account. In a news briefing, Spicer defended Trump’s tweets, saying the president had a right to stand up for his family. Ivanka is being “maligned” because Nordstrom has “a problem with his policies,” he added.
There’s no question the president has the right to defend his family. In 1950, President Harry S. Truman blasted The Washington Post’s music critic, Paul Hume, for a negative review of his daughter Margaret’s singing performance.
“I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an ‘eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay,'” Truman wrote. “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
But Truman didn’t charge that Hume’s review was politically motivated. In contrast, Trump and his White House claim the president’s daughter was treated unfairly and maligned because of politics. Is that the case?
A national “Grab Your Wallet” boycott of retailers carrying products by Trump and his family began in October, in the wake of The Washington Post’s report of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video that captured Trump making lewd comments about women.
In a Nov. 21 internal email obtained by Fortune Magazine, the company’s co-president, Pete Nordstrom, said the company planned to carry the brand as long as sales were profitable. He wrote that the company “strive[s] to be agnostic about politics and to treat all our customers with respect.” The company confirmed the legitimacy of the email to the Fact Checker.
Excerpts from the email:
“We’ve heard from customers, including some who are long time loyal customers, threatening a boycott of Nordstrom if we continue to carry the line. Similarly, we’ve heard from customers who say they will boycott Nordstrom if we stop carrying the brand. This is a sharply divisive subject. No matter what we do, we are going to end up disappointing some of our customers.”“Every single brand we offer is evaluated on their results — if people don’t buy it, we won’t sell it,” and the Ivanka Trump brand “has grown to be a sizable and successful business.”
Fortune Magazine reported that the company’s neutral stance may end up divisive for its employees, who want the company to take a political stand.
The company had already ordered the spring collection of Ivanka Trump clothing. The spring order probably was placed in late summer or early fall, before the Grab Your Wallet boycott began in October or the November election, according to Racked.com.
On Feb. 2, Nordstrom announced it will stop carrying Ivanka Trump, due to poor sales. The company said it evaluates sales each season. Racked.com found there was a dramatic decline in Ivanka Trump products on the retailer’s website from Dec. 2 to Dec. 27. The company said on Feb. 2:
“We’ve got thousands of brands — more than 2,000 offered on the site alone. Reviewing their merit and making edits is part of the regular rhythm of our business. Each year we cut about 10 percent and refresh our assortment with about the same amount. In this case, based on the brand’s performance we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”
The White House did not respond to our request for evidence that Nordstrom’s move was politically motivated. In response to Trump’s tweet and Spicer’s comment, Nordstrom said on Feb. 8:
“To reiterate what we’ve already shared when asked, we made this decision based on performance. Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now. We’ve had a great relationship with the Ivanka Trump team. We’ve had open conversations with them over the past year to share what we’ve seen and Ivanka was personally informed of our decision in early January.”
Ivanka Trump herself announced she would leave her eponymous brand, after her husband was appointed senior adviser to the White House. The Ivanka Trump brand did not respond to our inquiry, but issued a statement on Feb. 3 that read, in part: “We believe that the strength of a brand is measured not only by the profits it generates, but the integrity it maintains.”
[Update: Internal records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal showed sales of Ivanka Trump’s brand fell 32 percent at Nordstrom Inc., last fiscal year. “The brand‘s decline at Nordstrom occurred even as the chain’s overall sales rose in a difficult retail market," the Journal wrote.]
The Pinocchio Test
While Trump and Spicer paint this issue as a political move targeting Ivanka Trump and the president’s policies, the company has maintained for months that it will base its decisions on sales performance.
The Nov. 21 internal email shows the company faced threats of boycotts from both sides of the issue. Customers were sharply divided, the email said: Some wanted Nordstrom to continue selling Ivanka Trump apparel, others wanted the company to discontinue sales. Nordstrom told its employees it would be “agnostic about politics and to treat all our customers with respect,” and it anticipated that whatever decision it made would be based on sales, and would disappoint some of its customers.
Somewhere between the end of November and end of January, the company decided it would no longer carry Ivanka Trump apparel next season. Based on the information at hand, Nordstrom consistently has said its decisions are made based on sales performance. It has not taken a stance for or against Trump’s policies, the president’s daughter or her brand. (For instance, an internal email on the immigration executive order took no specific stand.) The evidence is stacked against Trump and Spicer, and we award them Four Pinocchios.
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