Ivanka Trump’s namesake fashion apparel company announced on Tuesday they will close shop. Trump left her role at the company more than a year ago to take her current position in the White House. Ever since then, the clothing and shoe line has faced boycotts, protests, and unfriendly retailers distancing themselves from the brand.
In February last year, Nordstrom announced they would stop selling Ivanka Trump clothing and shoes because of declining sales. President Trump responded on Twitter, criticizing Nordstrom for treating his daughter “unfairly.” Since then, Hudson Bay, Neiman Marcus, and T.J. Maxx have all announced that they are either reducing or changing the line’s presence in their stores.
“We’ve seen strong sales since the brand’s inception, which continued through this year with the successful launch of our rapidly growing e-commerce business,” Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said in an emailed statement. “I know that this was a very difficult decision for Ivanka and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have led such a talented and committed team.”
Other than claiming that her focus is on her work in Washington, Ivanka did not give a detailed reason behind the decision. If low sales were the nail in the coffin, it’s not because the clothes aren’t affordable or appealing to the masses.
Her style is as basic as it gets in a young professional woman’s market: Flattering sheath dresses in pastel shades of millennial pink, just the right amount of ruffles and floral prints, with a moderate dose of classics like black pumps and purses that function as work bags. Take the “Trump” label off, and you have a solid collection of ready-to-work clothes that would sell in any department store. All at reasonable price points if you’re shopping in a Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. Ivanka’s fashion collective is the perfect marriage of an Ann Taylor Loft store and a working mom’s Facebook group.
High-End Brand Names Perform Well In Lower Markets
So while declining sales in the major department stores may be the case, that leaves an entire market of value shoppers untapped. Value retailer behemoths like Walmart, Target, K-Mart, and Kohl’s have each had successes with lines from celebrities, designers, and luxury brands. The Ivanka Trump brand’s fashionable, working-woman style would be a perfect fit for a superstore’s business professional selection.
Target has been rolling out its upscale-downscale collaborations with luxury brands like Missoni, Lily Pulitzer, Alexander McQueen, Calypso St. Barth, and Hunter since 1999. Not to equate Ivanka Trump with a luxury designer, but these brand-name collections are notorious for attracting so much online traffic that the Target website freezes, and their mobs of customers stock up on merchandise only to resell it on Ebay.
Walmart recently acquired online clothing brands like Modcloth and Bonobos, and this spring they announced their partnership with major retailer Lord & Taylor to bring in more brands like Tommy Bahama and H Halston into the family. Not to mention their popular home good lines with Food Network star names like Paula Deen and Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.
Each of these big moves, to buy and sell higher-end brands or popular online brands, are part of Walmart and Target’s race to keep up with Amazon. The discount retailers may be well-known for catering to lower- and middle-income consumers, but their dependency on an expansive e-commerce portfolio is becoming evident.
Keep the Brand, Find New Customers
After Ivanka stepped down from her company to move to the White House, she retained the business through an independent trust, citing the importance of protecting the Trump name. “Had I sold the business, an independent third party would be able to go around the globe today licensing and leveraging the name of the 45th president of the United States of America—completely unfettered,” she said in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”
The Trumps are protective of the family name, as it’s what gives otherwise mediocre products and real estate more value. Her brand name may have been the company’s ultimate downfall, but it’s potentially still the company’s most valuable asset. If Ivanka is truly a savvy businesswoman, she will move her labels out of the department stores, where they’re constantly being skimmed over on sale racks as unremarkable, and pitch them to hungry big box stores where her ready-to-work style and recognizable brand name are a winning combination. Who doesn’t need a flattering sheath dress?