After a Washington Post article reported that Ivanka Trump fashion brand products are manufactured primarily by women working in sweatshop labor conditions in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet started a petition demanding Macy’s drop the line. In the first 24 hours after the petition’s unveiling, more than 31,000 people signed it.
This is a classic case of retailers’ two options when they enter politically controversial territory: stick to their guns and potentially lose a portion of their customers, or drop the brand and immediately lose the revenue that comes with it.
The RTP team discusses which is the bigger risk — dropping a brand that has achieved tremendous name recognition due to the political situation, or sticking with it and potentially alienating customers who object to the brand’s practices and associations. The team also shares whether there are things other retailers can do to protect themselves — or even to take advantage of such a situation.
Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief: This is difficult because it could be a choice between sales and what is perceived to be “the right thing.” When companies make choices that offend a group of people, they risk losing sales and revenue. But how do they determine how many people they may offend? It’s true that you can never make everyone happy, but in a business setting there has to be a balance. Even though a lot of people may not be fans of Ivanka for political reasons, the Ivanka brand has been selling well. That is a quandary for Macy’s and other retailers, especially when they are struggling on so many other levels. From Macy’s standpoint, if they don’t want to give up the sales, it’s probably best to keep a low profile and not make any big public statements about the issue.
Adam Blair, Executive Editor: Choose your metaphor to describe the quandary…