business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• Consider it an advisory to anybody in the business of selling stuff to consumers.

The New York Times has a story about how "these days, a shirt is not always just a shirt, and a store is not always just a store. Handbags, dresses and other ordinary items - and where they are bought - have become politicized, turning shopping decisions into acts of protest for the millions of people in pro- and anti-President Trump camps. Under Armour, L.L. Bean, T.J. Maxx and many other companies have already been pulled into a sort of ideological tug of war."

The story goes on to say that "=many retailers and brands would clearly prefer to fly below the political radar and stay away from the outrage on Twitter and Facebook. Calls or emails sent to a half-dozen of the country’s largest department stores about how they are handling (Ivanka) Trump’s products, for example, resulted in either no comment or carefully neutral statements. None of the stores agreed to discuss how they made decisions around Ms. Trump’s merchandise or details about sales of the products.

"But many of these companies — like L.L. Bean and Macy’s — still find themselves in the eye of a social media storm."

And all of them, the story suggests, will have to face a new reality: "Companies are now being swept up into this political consumer activism in a way that they have not been in the past,” says Maurice Schweitzer, a professor of operations, information and decisions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Some folks disagree with me, I continue to believe that however they feel about Trump, businesses have to be prepared to deal with the possibility that Trump decides to post a Tweet about them. The message could be positive or negative, some customers will be pleased and others will be aghast. But businesses have to be prepared.

Newsweek has a story about three companies that it says are almost certain to be adversely affected if the US government decides to place "a 20 percent tariff on goods imported from Mexico." While it remains uncertain whether the Congress will eventually get behind such a proposal, President Donald Trump "seems intent on fulfilling many of his campaign promises, which seem to include a trade war with Mexico in the form of stricter border controls, import taxes, and pressure on American companies to not outsource jobs."

Of the companies that would be affected by such a tariff, Newsweek writes, Walmart would be at the top of the list.

"Outside the U.S., no country is more important to Wal-Mart than Mexico," the story says. "About one-fifth of the company's stores are located south of the border, and Wal-Mart's imports rely on many products imported from Mexico ... With 2,379 stores, Wal-Mart is only the largest retail chain in Mexico, but animosity seemed to be building against it, as seen on  Twitter  under the hashtag #Adios WalMart.

"Groceries also make up the majority of Wal-Mart's sales, and agricultural trade across the border is strong. Mexico would likely implement a border tax, testing Wal-Mart's North American supply chain and causing higher prices."

Two other companies mentioned in the Newsweek article as vulnerable to such a tariff would be Chipotle, which would be tremendously affected because of the vegetables - especially avocados - that it imports from Mexico, and Constellation Brands, which imports Corona and Modelo bands from Mexico.

Reuters reports that "Trump-branded consumer products have suffered new blows, with U.S. retailers Sears Holdings Corp and Kmart Corp discontinuing online sales of 31 Trump Home items." The two retailers said it was not a political decision but rather "part of a push to focus their online business on the most profitable items."

I don't know about you, but I find this funny on several levels. First of all, I'm not sure how being removed from Sears and Kmart is a bad thing. And second, what the hell were Trump-licensed brands doing there anyway? Sounds a little downscale for a the Trump brand...

Reuters reports that Amazon, in its annual regulatory filings, warned "that government actions to bolster domestic companies against foreign competition could hurt its business, and that “'trade and protectionist measures' might hinder its ability to grow."

The comments were seen as a "possible reference to US President Donald Trump’s 'America First' agenda."

A "possible" reference? That strikes me as an understatement...
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