Business

Bed Bath & Beyond the latest to retreat from Ivanka Trump's brand. Is her collection doomed?

Bed, Bath and Beyond is the latest retailer to curtail online sales of Ivanka Trump products. It’s another blow to a brand that has already fallen out of favour with some retailers. But the line may also be getting a boost from all the controversy.

There's debate over whether ties to President Donald Trump are hurting or helping the brand

Bed Bath and Beyond has dropped Ivanka Trump's products from its website, but says it's still carrying her merchandise in some stores. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Bed Bath and Beyond is the latest major retailer to curtail online sales of Ivanka Trump merchandise. It's yet another blow to a brand that has already fallen out of favour with other retailers and many shoppers ever since Ivanka Trump ensconced herself in the White House.

Trump product boycotters expressed their glee on social media after concluding that Bed Bath and Beyond had completely cut ties with Trump family merchandise — including the Ivanka Trump line of diaper bags.

"OMG OMG OMG … finally. I can shop there again," someone tweeted in reaction. "Yay! I need new curtain rods," responded another person.

Customers had surmised Bed Bath and Beyond had stopped selling Trump goods for two reasons.

One, the items are no longer available on the retailer's website. Two, someone had circulated online an email from a Bed Bath and Beyond customer service rep, which stated, "At this time, we are no longer carrying Trump merchandise."

However, the jubilation among Trump critics died down somewhat after Bed Bath and Beyond posted a message on social media denying it had dropped the Ivanka Trump brand. The retailer claimed that a rogue employee had provided incorrect information.

Ivanka Trump diaper bags have disappeared from Bed Bath and Beyond's online shopping site. (Ivanka Trump)

The household goods store clarified that it still offers Ivanka Trump products in some locations "where consumer demand and business performance justifies it." It also said, "We are not making our merchandising decisions based on anyone's political beliefs."

The statement only served to confuse both anti- and pro-Trump supporters, because Ivanka Trump merchandise is still missing from the company's website.

"Bath and Beyond, you're a LIAR," responded one customer on the retailer's Facebook site. She went on to complain that the brand could no longer be found online and was dwindling from stores. "The only Ivanka Trump merchandise left in your retail stores is leftover stock."

CBC News asked the company for comment but it did not respond.

A bad sign?

Bed Bath and Beyond joins a growing list of retailers that are curtailing sales of Ivanka Trump products.

In October, a grassroots campaign — Grab Your Wallet — called for a boycott of stores carrying Trump family merchandise to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's divisive politics. Ivanka Trump's line of clothing and accessories quickly became a major target.

Department store giant Nordstrom announced in February it wouldn't be carrying her new season's line because of poor sales. That same month, Burlington Coat Factory and Neiman Marcus stopped selling her products online.

Ivanka Trump dresses are displayed at a Toronto Winners. (CBC)

TJ Maxx and Marshalls also appear to be at least playing down the brand. The New York Times obtained a staff memo in February telling store employees to discard Ivanka Trump promotional signs and mix her clothing among other brands. 

Ivanka supporters have complained that it's unfair for people to boycott her line simply because they don't like her father's politics.

But Grab Your Wallet supporters claim she's complicit in the president's policies, especially now that she has secured an official, unpaid position in the White House.

"She's clearly part of what I consider to be the problem," said boycotter Amanda Dexter, who lives in Wakefield, Que.

Is it good for business?

Although some retailers are backing away from Ivanka Trump merchandise, it's still up for debate whether or not the link to her father's administration is helping or hurting sales.

Ivanka built her brand by targeting young, professional working women, says marketing expert, Joanne McNeish. But these people tend not to be Trump supporters.

"When you change your brand values and they're no longer consistent with your current target audience, your current target audience tends to leave you," says the Ryerson University professor.

An Ivanka Trump brand jacket is displayed at the Hudson's Bay in Toronto. (CBC)

However, Ivanka's company recently claimed that sales have been soaring since the beginning of February.

Lyst, a London-based e-commerce website, has also reported a spike in Ivanka Trump sales in both February and March.

Certainly, some Trump supporters may be making a point of buying her products because of the boycott.

"Just emailed goodbye letter to Bed Bath Beyond," announced one supporter on the Ivanka Trump company Facebook site. "Need to know WHERE to shop to support her."

Ivanka Trump wears a wrap skirt from her collection while walking on the tarmac following a flight on Air Force One on March 3. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press/Ivanka Trump collection)

Ivanka Trump may also be experiencing a bump in sales due to the free publicity her brand is getting, thanks to her heightened profile.

She has taken a leave of absence from her company while working in the White House. But she still profits from sales and still wears her line.

Last week, the U.K. Daily Mail posted photos of her dressed "head-to-toe" in a floral dress, handbag and shoes from her collection. Ivanka "looked ready for spring" stated an accompanying article listing retail prices for her ensemble.

Also, members of the administration have stated their support for the brand, including the president, who chastised Nordstrom for cutting back sales.

But the free publicity could lead to trouble for Ivanka's company down the road, because it has sparked conflict-of-interest allegations.

Last month, a proposed class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of women's clothing retailers throughout California. It accuses the company of unfairly benefiting from Ivanka's ties to the White House.

"Defendants continue to fail to take appropriate steps to avoid exploiting public office for private gain," alleges the statement of claim.

Now that Ivanka has taken an official job in the White House, cries of conflict of interest may grow louder. That's because she's not allowed to take any action that might benefit her business.

About the Author

Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Sophia Harris has worked as a CBC video journalist across the country, covering everything from the start of the annual lobster fishery in Yarmouth, N.S., to farming in Saskatchewan. She now has found a good home at the business unit in Toronto. Contact: sophia.harris@cbc.ca

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