Like the rest of the country, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is making waves in the retail world. In the last week, both Ivanka Trump and New Balance sneakers have been criticized and subsequently issued public apologies in relation to the Trump campaign. Shortly after election results were announced, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs, Matt LeBretton, voiced the company’s support for President-elect Trump to the Wall Street Journal, stating:
“The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” -Matthew LeBretton, New Balance’s VP of public affairs
LeBretton was answering a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, a trade policy put forth by President Obama. As the only company that still manufactures athletic shoes in the United States, New Balance opposed the TPP under the belief that it would hurt business by supporting companies overseas.
The comment may have been taken out of context, but it was enough to anger anti-Trump New Balance customers who equate support for Trump as being in favor of nationalism, racism, and misogyny. Almost immediately following LeBretton’s statement people took to social media in opposition of New Balance, many posted images and videos of setting the sneakers on fire or flushing them down the toilet.
Already a PR disaster, things only got worse when Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, an alt-right website, published an article claiming New Balance as the “official shoes of white people.” New Balance swiftly released a statement on Twitter to distance themselves from Daily Stormer but the damage was already done with many New Balance customers deciding to continue to boycott the company. Recently, another article was published on The Daily Stormer announcing that the website’s endorsement of the New Balance will not be repealed despite the brand’s efforts to separate themselves from the controversial website. In the meantime, Reebok has capitalized on the sticky situation by offering to replace the sneakers of upset New Balance customers. Time can only tell if this scandal has done permanent damage to the shoe brand, perhaps it will actually see an upswing in profit due to white supremacists buying NB sneakers for the first time.
Ivanka Trump also had a shopping scandal on her hands. After appearing in her father’s 60 Minutes interview on November 13th, one of her companies, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, sent out an email to certain publications that advertised the bracelet that she was wearing in the interview. The “shopping alert” was viewed by many as a questionable use of a very public platform and an act of tactless self promotion, especially considering that the $10,800 bangle is financially out of reach to many of the low income voters who supported her father’s campaign. This wasn’t the first time that Trump mixed politics and business. After she wore an Ivanka Trump studded dress for her speech at July’s Republican National Convention she sent a tweet out to her 2.35 million followers that urged them to buy the dress. This was met with some derision but not as much as her latest branding gaffe which resulted in the company’s release of a public statement saying, “This notification was sent by a well-intentioned marketing employee at one of our companies who was following customary protocol, and who, like many of us, is still making adjustments post-election. We are proactively discussing new policies and procedures with all of our partners going forward.”
Since the beginning of her father’s campaign and especially after the “pussy grabbing” controversy, many shoppers have chosen to boycott Ivanka’s company, simply for her relation to Mr. Trump. One Twitter posted a letter urging Nordstrom to drop her lines and also accused the company of refusing to offer maternity leave and violating copyrights.
President-elect Trump and his family members are now going to have to navigate a peculiar minefield between politics and business. Customers have always been swayed or repulsed by their opinion of brand spokespeople. We would bet that many Trump supporters will become new Ivanka customers and book first-time visits to a Trump hotel while anti-Trump customers will boycott anything remotely Trump.
View below the “Companies to Boycott” chart which has been circulating the internet and gaining traction via social media by Anti-Trump costumers.