Ivanka Trump, her brand dropped by some retailers, opens her own store in Trump Tower

Washington Post

Ivanka Trump's fashion company on Thursday opened a new store in the lobby of Trump Tower, where it plans to sell handbags, jewelry and candles as part of broader push to bypass retailers and sell directly to consumers.

The store in Midtown Manhattan - currently the company's only bricks-and-mortar location - comes after a number of high-profile retailers, including Nordstrom and Sears, stopped carrying the presidential daughter's line earlier this year. The company also recently began selling its wares, including $25 earrings, $34 candles and $298 handbags directly on its website.

"In the ever changing retail landscape, the Ivanka Trump brand is committed to engaging with the customers directly," a spokeswoman for the company said in an email. Trump is a senior adviser to her father's administration.

The expansion is yet another example, ethics experts say, of the Trump family's efforts to tap the wallets of their supporters. Ivanka Trump made more than $5 million from her fashion company between January 2016 and March 2017, according to financial disclosures released this summer. She has since handed over day-to-day operations to Abigail Klem, but continues to own the company she founded a decade ago.

"This is another in a long line of conflicts of interests," said Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. "By selling directly to die-hard Trump supporters, who are already hanging out at Trump Tower, she gets to pocket even higher [profit] margins."

The company is one of many that are thinking beyond department stores, as Americans increasingly shop online and in specialty boutiques, says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of Retail Systems Research, consultancy based in Miami.

"Who are customers more loyal to: The brand or the retailer? Increasingly, it's the brand," she said. "Plus, she's probably getting a good deal on rent at Trump Tower."

The store, which will be open seven days a week, will carry handbags, jewelry and candles, as well as a holiday ornament that will be sold exclusively at Trump Tower, a spokeswoman said.

Trump's first store, a fine jewelry boutique in Manhattan, closed in 2015 after an eight-year run. She also for a time sold fine jewelry from the lobby of Trump Tower, but has since discontinued that line and shifted to lower-priced jewelry.

Nordstrom in February dropped Ivanka Trump's clothing and shoes from its stores after a period of declining sales. Soon after that, Kmart and Sears, also citing slow sales, announced they would be removing some Trump-branded products from their websites. There was also pressure from left-leaning groups to boycott retailers that carried Trump's brands. (Among those that still do: Macy's, Lord and Taylor, Zappos and Amazon.com. Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

In September, the website Racked reported that sales of Ivanka Trump-branded items had steadily fallen earlier in the year. Order volume, which rose 771 percent in February, had tapered off by August, when orders were down 1 percent from a year earlier.

"We heard from many retailers that these items just weren't selling," Rosenblum said. "But with this store, she'll able to find out - politics aside - whether there is a market for this in New York."

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune
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