Hudson's Bay, other stores pressured to dump Trump products, amid tariff tiff
The recent tariff dispute between Canada and U.S. has sparked a renewed social media call to boycott stores carrying Trump family merchandise.
However, the campaign may be fruitless, according to some business strategy experts. They say not only do boycotts not tend to work, but also, goods associated with the family of U.S. President Donald Trump — from his red ties to his daughter Ivanka's dresses — have already fallen out of favour with shoppers.
"There's no point boycotting Trump merchandise because it's self-destructing. It's not going to be here very much longer," said Marvin Ryder, a business professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
The call to boycott came shortly after Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports. Social entrepreneur and Maclean's writer Scott Gilmore compiled a list of companies to target, all of which carry Trump merchandise.
"Whatever the reason, you're reading this because you want to hit back and hurt Trump in the only place he cares about — his wallet," Gilmore wrote.
His list highlights Hudson's Bay Co., plus other retailers prominent in Canada, including Winners, Walmart and online giant Amazon. They carry clothes and/or accessories from Ivanka Trump's fashion line.
Sharon Shannon in Abbotsford, B.C,. immediately jumped on board, deciding Trump's tariffs were "the last straw." She has pledged not to shop at stores she frequents on the list — the Bay and Winners — until they stop selling Ivanka Trump fashions.
"The only way we can voice our displeasure is to keep our business away."
The campaign is similar to one started last year in the U.S. called #GrabYourWallet, which also targets many stores selling Ivanka Trump fashions.
Just before her father's inauguration, Ivanka Trump announced in a Facebook post that she would take a leave of absence from her brand, stepping away from both management and operations, as she readied to move to Washington. But she still owns the company, profits from it and sports its merchandise.
The Maclean's list has been widely circulated on social media, with Canadians pledging to take part. The Bay in particular is being targeted because even though it is now U.S.-owned, Canadians still see it as part of the country's fabric.
"It's just so ingrained in Canada and Canadian values," said Shannon, who recently informed the Bay on Facebook she's boycotting the department store.
"The fact that you are the iconic Canadian company, I respectfully request that you stop selling any items that will profit the Trump family," she wrote.
Tariffs cited as reason for boycott
Shannon told CBC News she feels the boycott is the only way she, as a Canadian, can voice her concerns about Trump's divisive policies — including the recent tariffs and his administration's decision to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"It's my only way of protesting."
Ryan Coffey, in Nanaimo, B.C., has also targeted the Bay by emailing the retailer, saying he will boycott the department store until it publicly announces it will no longer carry Trump products.
He said he disagrees with many of Trump's policies, including the recent tariffs, which he deems a personal attack on Canada.
"It feels a little different because it's actually toward us."
Coffey called his decision to join the boycott was "the natural next step."
Bay stays neutral
On Monday, Hudson's Bay Co. gave no direct indication if it would drop Ivanka Trump products.
"We respect our customers' right to choose the brands that work for them. In turn, our customers' choices inform our decisions on which merchandise we offer," spokesperson Tiffany Bourré said via email.
Walmart, Winners and Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment.
In response to Coffey's email, the Bay told him: "We are sorry to hear that you are disappointed with the decision to carry this brand." It also said it would take his concerns into consideration.
So will the latest boycott have any effect? Last year, at the height of the #GrabYourWallet campaign, Ivanka Trump goods began disappearing from some stores, including Nordstrom, although the retailer said the decision was based on sales performance and not a political position. Neiman Marcus and Burlington Coat Factory also stopped selling her fashions online.
According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump products aren't faring so well, either. It recently reported that, over the past three years, the number of companies paying him to produce or distribute Trump-branded merchandise declined from 19 to two.
Trump products falling out of fashion?
Marketing expert Ryder doesn't believe the decline of Trump goods has anything to do with boycotts. Instead, he says they're simply falling out of fashion.
"You might think now that Donald Trump is president: 'Doesn't everyone want to dress like Ivanka?' And the answer is No," he said.
A year ago, Ivanka Trump's clothing and jewelry were prominently promoted at the Bay's flagship store in downtown Toronto. As of this past weekend, her merchandise was more inconspicuously displayed.
According to Toronto-based business strategy adviser Mark Satov, boycotts often don't work because many shoppers choose not to take part.
If the the Bay has reduced Ivanka Trump's merchandise, it's because consumers simply aren't buying it, he said.
"I think the brand is not strong because more people have a negative association with it than a positive association with it, especially in Canada," Satov said.
"If you want to buy it, the store's going to sell it."