Typically and often, Urban Outfitters presents an item that strikes a nerve with the public that requires an apology before the company pulls the merchandise. However, their “IDK NOT TRUMP THO” T-shirts are a favorite among Donald Trump protesters, and with the Anti-Trump movement going strong, the struggling retailer has no plans to pull the item.
Comedian Dave Ross came up with the slogan and had the $10 sign made at Staples. After he posted the “IDK NOT TRUMP THO” sign on his front lawn then shared it on Twitter, the tweet went viral, and opportunists quickly went to work selling the Anti-Trump message, reports CBS.
I never ever ever put up campaign signs but I feel very strongly this year so I had one made! pic.twitter.com/MhuUetR5EW
— Dave Ross (@davetotheross) January 13, 2016
Dave Ross seized the moment and began selling the shirts himself online at idknottrumptho.com, and then Urban Outfitters came knocking with a licensing deal. The web exclusive men’s and women’s T-shirts are a hot item — the shirts are selling for $28, and the mugs are $10. Dave Ross told CBS News that the preliminary run of 300 T-shirts sold out in less than a day.
“The licensing company told me that this is one of the most successful designs they’ve worked on with Urban Outfitters.”
Unlike previously offered merchandise that ruffled some feathers, Dave Ross’s IDK NOT TRUMP T-shirts were jumping off the shelves, especially now that the controversial and divisive Republican candidate is officially the Republican parties nominee for president.
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) July 18, 2016
Urban Outfitters also sells T-shirts reading “Hillary Runnin’ Thangs Tour 2016,” and Bernie Sanders fans can still get “Feel the Bern” items despite the fact that he won’t be the Democratic parties nominee.
Urban Outfitters is well aware that backlash is a risk, but the company is famous for presenting provocative merchandise. The brand’s CEO Richard Hayne (who is a Republican) understands that their core customers are millennials, and the T-shirts and mugs are a reflection of the contentious of this political season. Melissa Arnoff is a senior vice president at Levick, a crisis and issues management firm and she believes that because of the unusual nature of the 2016 election, all bets are off.
“I think all the normal rules are off. Urban Outfitters is known for hitting on what is trendy, and it is trendy right now to really not to like Donald Trump.”
Procuring Dave Ross’s “IDK NOT TRUMP THO” slogan is just one of Urban Outfitters’ recent shrewd business decisions. In addition to entering the political arena, the company has also purchased the Vetri Family restaurant group, which includes Pizzeria Vetri, a staple in Philadelphia. The move understandably confused Wall Street analysts and Marc Vetri’s fellow chefs, according to Bloomberg, who couldn’t understand the logic behind building a $20 million business only to sell it to a flailing retailer. Shareholders didn’t get it either, and the day the acquisition was announced, Urban Outfitter’s stock fell by 10 percent.
The logic was simple: Marc Vetri told Bloomberg that he was looking for support and growth.
“It is nothing to sneeze at! We’re restaurant owners. We understand what the margins are. Think about this: we had seven restaurants, we wanted to grow, we don’t necessarily know how to scale things efficiently. They have the knowledge that we don’t have and we have the knowledge that they don’t have.”
One thing is uncertain is how much Marc Vetri got for the Vetri franchise and whether the pizzerias will be in-store or near the stores. Bloomberg’s Lindsey Rupp theorizes that Urban Outfitters is trying to build an experience in its stores like Anthropology did by putting salons in their stores.
“People are spending a lot more money on restaurants than they are on apparel so this might not be a terrible investment to get people into your stores.”
Rupp says that retailers have had restaurants in their stores before with mixed results. Seeing as retailers haven’t been doing well lately, this is the company’s attempt to get more foot traffic, especially since consumers are increasingly shopping online and not in the malls.
Urban Outfitters and its subsidiaries — Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie, Terrain, and BHLDN — operate a total of 400 global retail locations with visibility in 1,400 specialty stores and department stores. When it was announced the company was buying the Vetri Family restaurant group, the stock fell $1.82 to $22.67, the biggest one-day decline in almost six months, according to Bloomberg.
Urban Outfitters’ gamble of selling Anti-Trump merchandise is paying off for them, and the brand is hoping that by putting salons and restaurants in the brick and mortar stores, they can make their shareholders happy. Richard Hayne is clearly a leader who will do whatever it takes, including taking deep salary cuts, to keep his business humming.
As for Dave Ross, unless an independent candidate pops up that he likes he has graduated from the “do not know camp.”
“If we’re talking Hillary versus Trump, I am with Hillary all the way. The Republican party seems to be scared of Trump too.”
Urban Outfitters has once again proven just how out-of-the-box and determined the company is in surviving the retail slump. Innovative ideas such as courting Dave Ross, whose “IDK NOT TRUMP THO” message resonates with those who don’t want to see Donald Trump in the Oval Office, and enticing customers into its stores by offering upscale pizza has to be admired.
[Photo by Scott Eells/Getty Images]