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Defections by Sears, Kmart cap week of controversy for Trump brands
February 11, 2017 / 6:58 PM / 7 months ago

Defections by Sears, Kmart cap week of controversy for Trump brands

(Reuters) - Trump-branded consumer products have suffered new blows, with U.S. retailers Sears Holdings Corp and Kmart Corp discontinuing online sales of 31 Trump Home items, while new details emerged showing sales of Ivanka Trump’s brand fell in the weeks before Nordstrom Inc stopped carrying her products.

Sears and its wholly owned subsidiary, Kmart, disclosed their decision on Saturday, saying it was part of a push to focus their online business on the most profitable items.

Separately, 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 internal Nordstrom data, the Journal reported sales of Ivanka Trump-branded clothing and shoes had dropped more than 70 percent in the second, third and fourth week of October compared with the same weeks the previous year. The election was held on Nov. 8.

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.

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.

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.

A Sears department store is seen in New Hyde Park, New York, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

On Friday, three athletes sponsored by Under Armour Inc took to social media to distance themselves from comments by the company’s chief executive, Kevin Plank, in support of President Trump.

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.

Customers are seen outside of a Kmart department store in Killeen, Texas, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Khursheed

Neither Sears nor Kmart carried the Trump Home products in their retail stores, a Sears Holdings Corp spokesman said.

“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.

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.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Joel Schectman in Washington; Writing by David Greising; Editing by Grant McCool and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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