NEW YORK, United States — Donald Trump had a prediction after retailers dumped the Trump brand over incendiary comments in 2015. “They’ll all be back,” he said.
They’ve stayed away.
Trump’s unexpected political victory has done little to boost a licensing business that at its peak had deals with the likes of department store Macy’s Inc., apparel purveyor PVH Corp. and mattress maker Serta Simmons Bedding LLC.
There’s only a smattering of items left for sale, often leftover inventory offered at reduced prices through discount shopping sites. Companies that had deals with “The Apprentice” star or still sell Trump merchandise were almost unanimous in their refusal to talk about it when contacted by Bloomberg News.
In one case, Overstock.com Inc. said it mistakenly had a few Trump items for sale, including a single 40-long men’s suit for $189, and removed them after Bloomberg inquired. The online discounter joined a lengthy list of companies severing its relationship with the brand when candidate Trump ridiculed Senator John McCain for being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and said Mexico was sending its rapists to the US.
“I took Donald Trump’s products off our site over 18 months ago as a result of the way he spoke of John McCain’s service as well as the racially coloured language he used when announcing his candidacy,” Overstock chief executive officer Patrick Byrne said in an e-mailed statement. “We have revisited this decision from 2015 and stand by it. The products to which you are referring recently slipped through our filter.”
Ivanka Trump’s brand has taken a hit, too, but not nearly as severe as her father’s, even as both labels remain the focus of online boycotts. Her wares have vanished from chains such as Nordstrom Inc. and Neiman Marcus Group but remain in others, including Overstock. Licensees such as G-III Apparel Group Ltd. have also stuck by her. Her father lost licensees like PVH and Serta.
The Trump Organization, which oversees the president’s business empire, declined to answer questions about the Donald Trump brand, which also has included dress shirts, eyewear, fragrance, deodorant, lamps and wall mirrors. The company has not announced the signing of any new licenses since March 2015, and that deal is indicative of where the brand stands.
Perfumania Holdings Inc., a fragrance-maker and retailer, debuted “Success By Trump” exclusively at Macy’s stores in 2012. It released a follow-up at the department store chain in March 2015 with “Empire by Trump” — a men’s scent with notes of peppermint and spicy Thai, according to its publicity materials. Just three months later, Trump’s comments on Mexico caused Perfumania to quit selling the Trump brand, creating a glut of inventory to unload. At the time, Trump told Forbes that “they’ll all be back.”
The president was at least right about Perfumania. Its relationship with the Trump brand resembles the volatile political fortunes of Trump himself. After bailing on him when he was seen as a fringe candidate with little chance, Perfumania brought back Trump products like deodorant and eau de toilette when he captured the White House last year. The company didn’t seem eager to talk about it. Repeated calls and e-mails to the company’s CEO and public relations staff weren’t returned. In one instance, a PR staffer hung up the phone.
Perfumania has been struggling. Sales declined 13 percent to $489.8 million in the 12 months through October, which are its most recently reported results. Its stock has tumbled 21 percent in the past year.
Sears Holding Corp., the struggling department store chain, recently stopped selling Trump-brand home items and said in a statement that it often removes products based on demand. But it added that there were plenty of Trump goods in its marketplace, where independent sellers post their own items.
At Trump Tower in New York City, Ivanka’s brand was more prominently displayed than her dad’s. On the ground floor, there’s a boutique dedicated to her jewellery. Across from it are cases of other Trump gear, but most of it is branded Trump Hotel and Trump Tower. In the basement, there’s a gift shop filled with campaign tchotchkes. Outside the store is a kiosk with shelves built into a hallway filled with some Donald Trump-branded goods for tourists, including “Empire By Trump” deodorant for $15 — triple the $5 that Perfumania charges.
“Retailers will sell lines and products that they can make money on,” said Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. “If they’re not making money, they probably won’t renew that contract.”
By Matt Townsend and Molly Smith; editors: Nick Turner and Bob Ivry.