During Trump’s administration there have been a number of boycotts (or at the very least, called for boycotts) on a wide variety of industries, both for supporting Trump and for clashing with him. The boycott of Uber from a weeks ago garnered national attention and eventually warranted response from the company’s CEO, but the most recent boycott surrounding Trump and his family is of Nordstrom after the company’s decision to end its partnership with Ivanka Trump. Nordstrom stopped selling Ivanka’s clothing line, citing poor sales as the driving factor. But that decision may also have been largely influenced by the threat of anti-Trump boycotts following the “Grab Your Wallet” campaign that called for consumers to boycott a list of almost 70 perceivably pro-Trump companies. Despite the company’s official stance that removing Ivanka’s products should not be interpreted as “taking a political position,” Trump supporters have by and large condemned the company for giving in to anti-Trump boycotts and have responded with a similar call to action. Since making the decision, Nordstrom has become a target for a whole new series of boycotts from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Still, the actual impact on Nordstrom’s stock from the pro-Trump boycott has been minimal.
The limited effectiveness of these boycotts could be for a number of reasons. First, the boycotts associated with Trump, his supporters, and his critics have become so numerous that little to no attention is paid to them individually anymore. Overall, the number of stories about boycotts in U.S. newspapers has increased about 30% from only a year ago. Each specific boycott only has a few days of media attention before the public is redirected toward a new cause. Most companies suffer minor and temporary reputational damage as a result of any given boycotting effort. Furthermore, boycotts in general have proven to be an ineffective method of exacting change from companies. Even amongst consumers who agree with the ideology behind a boycott, most would not frequent the company in the first place and the rest are usually too loyal to the product or service to inconvenience themselves by forsaking it.
In today’s highly polarized political atmosphere, it may be difficult for companies to completely avoid taking any kind of political stand. Nordstrom was in a unique situation with Ivanka Trump in which the public perceived even inaction as a decisive political stance. Perhaps as tensions rise around Trump’s administration, it will become more and more difficult for companies to avoid these increasingly common, politically motivated boycotts, especially if even silence and inaction is interpreted as opposition. However, trends have shown that the repercussions of even highly public feuds and boycotts in this political and economic climate are not necessarily detrimental. While the situation between Nordstrom and the Trumps continues to unfold, so far Nordstrom stock has had a slightly positively impact from the media attention.