Donald Trump's presidential campaign hasn't exactly enhanced his brand. Foot traffic to Trump properties fell 17 percent year-over-year in March, April and June. The National Hispanic Media Coalition asked businesses in July to cut ties with the Republican presidential nominee. Protesters cried boycott outside the Wednesday grand opening of the new Trump International Hotel in D.C.
But his eldest daughter’s retail ventures appeared to dodge the ire — until the conversation shifted to his treatment of women. Now thousands of social media users are urging others to avoid stores that carry her namesake goods. Even some shoppers who haven't seen the hashtags — #GrabYourWallet, #BoycottIvanka — say they are spurning her office wear.
“I just don't want that name in my closet,” explained 31-year-old graphic designer Jessie Newman as she shopped at T.J. Maxx in D.C.
Ivanka Trump, 34, has painted herself as a champion of bread-winning mothers and harnessed Trump's White House bid to buoy that image. As she rallied to close the gender pay gap during her speech at the Republican National Convention in July, she sported one of her own designs, a $157 pink dress. The next morning, she linked to the look on Twitter.
This pairing of business and politics seemed to initially pay off. Google searches for her clothing brand spiked in the hours after her RNC debut and soared again following a September stump speech, in which she helped unveil the GOP nominee’s child-care plan.
Then The Washington Post published a 2005 tape on Oct. 7, showing Trump bragging about kissing and grabbing women without their permission. Ivanka continued to support her dad after the White House labeled such behavior sexual assault, after 11 women accused the candidate of making unwanted advances on them, and after Trump suggested the accusers weren’t attractive enough for him to pursue.
“My father's comments were clearly inappropriate and offensive,” she said of the 2005 tape in an interview with Fast Company magazine, “and I'm glad that he acknowledged this fact with an immediate apology to my family and the American people.”
That wasn’t good enough for Shannon Coulter, 45, who runs a marketing firm near San Francisco. A male boss had groped her once. Trump's remarks reminded her of the pain.
“She puts women’s empowerment at the center of her brand,” she said, “and is still campaigning for someone who is an alleged serial assaulter.”
Coulter shared her thoughts with the Internet, and they sparked a trend that, by Wednesday, had reached the feeds of more than 2 million Twitter accounts: Boycott Ivanka.
Saw two woman at a Lord & Taylor pick up Ivanka brand shoes, recoil and say, “No way.” https://t.co/eArCrr1tkF
— Delia (@DeliaCabe) October 17, 2016
Surveys suggest consumers have mixed feelings. A Brand Keys survey of 950 millennial woman, taken a week after the 2005 video was released, found that 51 percent of respondents were “extremely” or “very” willing to buy her office wear.
“Ivanka’s brand does not appear to have suffered the same fate as her father’s,” said Brand Keys President Robert Passikoff in a written statement. “There may be an 'I Hate All Things Trump' backlash going on at the moment, but as it regards Ivanka, we’re estimating that it will be relatively small and short-term.”
But in a national survey of 1,983 voters, conducted last week by polling firm Morning Consult, 57 percent of women said they would not purchase clothing from Ivanka’s namesake line, while less than a quarter said they would. The mogul's presidential run made 35 percent of the survey respondents “much less likely” to buy or use a Trump-related product. Another 4 percent are “somewhat less likely.”
Seventeen percent, meanwhile, said they are “much more” or “somewhat more” likely to buy or use Trump products in light of the campaign.
That does not bode well for Ivanka's clothing line.
“Brands are affected by what they’re associated with,” said marketing strategist Karen Leland, author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy.” “And most people who shop for women’s clothing are women.”
Some shoppers, she said, appear to be associating Trump with casual disrespect toward women. Leland recalls shopping recently with a friend in New York who snatched a blouse out of her hand. “I didn’t realize what I was holding,” she said, “but my friend says, ‘That’s Ivanka. You’re not allowed to buy that.’”
On Wednesday afternoon, three blocks from Trump’s new hotel in the nation’s capital, Candace Steele, 34, browsed through blouses at T.J. Maxx. She touched a black Ivanka Trump top with white butterflies, on sale for $19.99.
“I just can’t do it,” she said. “I can’t bring myself to buy it.”
Steele, who identifies as Republican and an undecided voter, saw nothing wrong with the shirt itself. She doesn’t dislike Ivanka, either.
“I know she can’t control her dad but …” she trailed off. “Ivanka’s in a hard position.”
Correction: A previous version of this story included an incorrect number related to the decline in bookings at certain Trump hotels. That error has been removed.
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