After top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told the world on “Fox and Friends” to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” I decided to take her up on the challenge. On Friday afternoon, I set out to find an Ivanka Trump dress or handbag at six New York City retailers.
What first began as a quest to find Ivanka Trump garb quickly devolved into a perturbing and uncomfortable shopping experience. We all know shopping in the city can be draining, but this experience, in particular, forced me to deal with cagey salespeople and to claw around in a sea of messy clearance racks.
As most of us know by now, last week, Nordstrom (JWN) announced it would no longer carry the Ivanka Trump brand due to lagging sales. And according to market research firm Slice Intelligence, Ivanka Trump merchandise saw a 26% dip in sales in January 2017 compared to January 2016.
“Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now. We’ve had a great relationship with the Ivanka Trump team,” read the statement from Nordstrom.
You may have heard about it when Trump tweeted about it from his personal account on Wednesday.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
As of Friday afternoon, only two Ivanka Trump items were available on the website, both pairs of shoes marked down 40%.
NORDSTROM RACK STILL SELLS IVANKA TRUMP SHOES
Though there aren’t any Nordstrom stores in New York City (there will be one opening in Manhattan in 2019) it does have its clearance, cheaper sister, Nordstrom Rack in the heart of Union Square. This is where my mission began. After asking a sales associate if he could direct me to any Ivanka Trump products, I was told: “We never really carried it here as a standalone brand. You should check the clearance department.”
So I went to the clearance section, where I rummaged through the various racks of dresses and couldn’t find a single Ivanka Trump one. There were several pairs of her shoes though — floral heels, booties, slip-on flats — all on sale. Several pairs of shoes weren’t in Ivanka Trump boxes; I don’t know if that was an oversight or an attempt to obscure the Trump brand.
Several other prominent brands, including Neiman Marcus, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, are not pulling the plug entirely but have changed their strategy when it comes to marketing and product placement.
IVANKA PRODUCTS WERE AVAILABLE AT T.J. MAXX, BUT NOT MARSHALLS
T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, both owned by TJX Companies (TJX), sent a note to employees, obtained by The New York Times and reading: “Effective immediately, please remove all Ivanka Trump merchandise from features and mix into the racks where most products hang. All Ivanka Trump signs should be discarded.”
Conveniently enough, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are housed in the same building in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, so I stopped by to see whether this was the case.
As anticipated, there was no signage at all or a separate section designated for Ivanka Trump items. At Marshalls, I asked a sales associate toward the front of the store where I could find any of her products. She jokingly retorted, “How dare you! You know they’re taking it off the market.”
Another handbag associate told me she “might have missed the announcement” but she wasn’t given any directions about what to do with Ivanka Trump items. “We always mix them in,” she told me. “But just like on Instagram, if you don’t get enough likes you might not get hired; that might be happening to the brand,” she added.
After these insightful conversations, I still had no guidance or direction as to where I could find an Ivanka bag, dress or shoes on my own. I couldn’t find a single item.
Then, I went upstairs to T.J. Maxx, where I found two handbags pushed toward the back of the crowded clearance racks. Originally, I had asked a sales associate rearranging the bags if any items from Ivanka Trump’s line were in stock. But she defiantly told me she didn’t work in that section and they should be arranged by color. That’s not the case in clearance, which offers up a hodgepodge of items.
As for clothing, two different associates told me they couldn’t point me to a certain direction and that I’d have to — yep, you guessed it — dig through the racks. With some persistence, I came across several dresses, in a variety of sizes — all for $39.99.
Of course, genuine bargain shoppers know it’s futile to go into any shopping experience at T.J. Maxx or Marshalls with a specific vision of your spoils, because, let’s face it, you won’t ever be able to emerge with what you’re looking for.
Even online, T.J. Maxx doesn’t let you shop by brand; instead, it shows you its top sellers (Ivanka Trump does not come up). And Marshalls only showcases customers’ social media posts of them donning their clothes and accessories they bought from the discount chain.
DSW HAS IVANKA SHOES IN-STORE AND ONLINE
But this felt like a particularly frustrating bargain-retail experience. Still, I felt compelled to continue on my retail adventure, and trekked back downtown to DSW (DSW), the hub for every kind of footwear imaginable. I’m no noob to DSW, so I knew that the scattered setup would make it hard for associates to point me to a specific place. But what I didn’t expect was for two different sales associates to tell me they had no idea if there were Ivanka Trump shoes in the main section and that there “might be a few in clearance.”
After perusing the aisles, I came across two different styles of Ivanka Trump shoes on the main floor. I also found a few pairs throughout the clearance section. And after returning from my shopping extravaganza, I found ample styles on DSW’s website. In other words, DSW is your destination if you’re looking for a brand that has not taken a public stance on the controversial line.
BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY HAS A FEW DRESSES IN-STORE BUT NOTHING ONLINE
And, because we’re in New York City after all, Burlington Coat Factory (BURL) is one floor above DSW in Union Square. I was on mission Ivanka.
At this point, I had perfected my script: ask the first employees I see where I could find Ivanka Trump clothing. Two sales associates were sitting at the front of the store. Upon asking, one woman told me, without skipping a beat, “No, we don’t carry it,” only for her to be corrected by her coworker — “They’re all mixed in. You have to look through the racks.”
And so, I did. I found a handful of dresses across all sizes. None were easy to find. Burlington’s website doesn’t offer any products from her line.
MACY’S STILL HAS A PROMINENT DISPLAY OF IVANKA TRUMP SHOES
My final stop before heading back to the office was Macy’s (M) in Herald Square. The main, glossy floor has tons of kiosks with brands like Coach (COH), Michael Kors (KORS) and Kate Spade (KATE). There’s a small annex half a floor up that carries other lines like Nine West and Fossil (FOSL). I expected for a few of her bags to be in that section but I was told by two associates they don’t sell it anymore and that she hasn’t seen them for a few years now.
In the shoe department on the second floor, I found two prominent displays of her winter/fall and spring collections.
Then, I learned I could find Ivanka Trump dresses on the fifth floor. As soon as I got off the escalator, I asked an associate where I could find her brand and she hesitated before telling me it’s “somewhere on the other side.” I was looking for her name on a sign — however small it may be — but couldn’t find one after doing a lap.
Finally, I stumbled upon several racks of Ivanka Trump dresses, but saw no signage whatsoever. The associate then followed me around and asked, in an accusatory tone, whether I was “here to buy a dress or to ask her about signs.” I quickly snapped a photo and got out of there as fast as I could.
While Macy’s hasn’t dropped Ivanka’s line, it’s quite arduous to find her dresses or shoes in-store. But according to analytics firm Jumpshot, the retailer’s customers are still excited about her products, as first reported by Business Insider.
In fact, the associate who worked in the handbag department excitedly told me that she had just purchased the $138 blush-toned dress that Ivanka wore at the RNC. She hadn’t been able to find it anywhere but found one on the fifth floor a few days ago.
I left my shopping extravaganza feeling fatigued and perplexed. Of course, one way to avoid all of this would be to shop online. But for those of you looking to browse in-store, you might come away feeling similarly — at least in New York City.
Perhaps this is more a reflection of the fact that Ivanka was never a destination brand to begin with, and more of a brand you stumble upon. But it was a struggle to find her dresses and accessories — and I was on assignment. Even the stores like Macy’s and DSW that have not changed their strategy have made it nearly impossible to find her stuff. I can’t help but wonder if this will become the norm until Ivanka’s brand slowly disappears from the racks entirely.
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.