business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The Seattle Times reports that Nordstrom's decision to no longer carry Ivanka Trump-branded merchandise "blew up into a national brouhaha Wednesday after President Donald Trump attacked the company on Twitter," writing:

My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!

Nordstrom said its decision to drop the brand was a matter of business, not politics - it had stopped selling, the company said, and was part of a routine culling of brands that no longer perform well enough to stay on store racks. However, executives at Ivanka Trump's company said that sales were "significantly" up last year.

While Ivanka Trump has said that she no longer has an active operating role at the company, she retains ownership.

The Times writes that "Neiman Marcus and Belk also reportedly are dropping the Ivanka Trump line from their stores. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are reportedly distancing themselves from the brand, with employees at the stores getting instructions to throw away the brand’s signs and mix Ivanka Trump merchandise with other brands ... Trump critics are pressuring Macy’s to drop the line as well.

"Nordstrom’s decision to stop carrying the line led to calls for a boycott of the retailer from Trump supporters. Earlier, the retailer had been the subject of a boycott call from anti-Trump activists who wanted the retailer to drop the Ivanka Trump line."

While President Trump's decision to post the criticism of Nordstrom on his Twitter account was criticized by some for mixing business and government to an unacceptable degree, White House press secretary Sean Spicer characterized the original comments as a defense of family: "He ran for president, he won, he’s leading this country. And I think for people to take out their concern about his actions or his executive orders on members of his family — he has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.”

But the Wall Street Journal writes, "Some ethics experts said the tweet highlights pitfalls in Mr. Trump’s approach to navigating potential conflicts of interest involving his family’s business and the presidency. His Twitter messages, which he has operated under @realDonaldTrump, also appear under an official @POTUS account."

One can only guess what Trump will post on his Twitter account when Taco Bell decides to no longer sell its new Trump Taco Bowl menu item because of declining sales.

Okay, let's get real about this for a moment. It strikes me as entirely credible that Nordstrom is making a business decision here, not a political calculation. After all, they're in the business of selling stuff, and if Ivanka Trump's stuff were still selling, they'd want to have it in stock.

But ... if we want to take the position that this is a political move, I can't really blame Nordstrom. At some level, because of the unpredictability of the Twitter storms that emerge from the White House, it seems like a reasonable decision to get as far from the Trump brand as possible. Companies may take a short-term hit, but in the long run, they may be better off getting some distance.

• Athletic clothing manufacturer/retailer Under Armour found itself at the center of a social media storm this week when its CEO, Kevin Plank, gave an interview to CNBC in which he described President Donald Trump as "a real asset" to the country. He made the comments after participating in an executive advisory group that met with Trump.

Almost immediately there was a backlash on social media, the New York Times writes, "with many expressing their displeasure using the hashtag #boycottUnderArmour."

And the Times writes that Under Armour also got some criticism from Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors and a paid spokesman for the brand. "I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et'," Curry said.

The Times adds that "Curry, who is under contract with Under Armour through 2024, signaled his willingness to leave a company that did not align with his values by saying, 'There is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn’t jump off, if it wasn’t in line with who I am'."

The tumult forced Baltimore-based Under Armour to release the following statement: "We engage in policy, not politics. We believe in advocating for fair trade, an inclusive immigration policy that welcomes the best and the brightest and those seeking opportunity in the great tradition of our country, and tax reform that drives hiring to help create new jobs globally, across America and in Baltimore."

Note to the folks at Under Armour: You can't engage in policy these days without engaging in politics. It is a fact of life.
KC's View: