From Boutique To Bargain Bin: Why Ivanka Trump’s Business Was Doomed [Opinion]

ivanka trump
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When Ivanka Trump launched a jewelry line in 2007, she was going for the image of not just luxury, but also extravagance — what everyone wanted, but only the most elite could have. She opened a Manhattan boutique on Madison Avenue, the kind of place that looked like one of her father’s bathrooms, draped in gold and finery, but lacking taste. While she may have thought she had earned a place which allowed her Trump name to be whispered in the same breath as Tiffany & Co. or Harry Winston, what she was headed for was Walmart. She was doomed from the start.

Business was good at first, then something changed it all. In 2010, she pivoted from being a designer line to a celebrity line, and Ivanka began expanding her business to include apparel, fragrances, footwear, a denim line, and accessories. Like her father of Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka fame, she started putting her name on everything too. She was making a lot more selling $100 dresses than $10,000 bracelets. The move made sense. At least at first.

While no one was mistaking her offerings as being truly high-end anymore, and an Ivanka handbag would still range from $125 to $200, it was the kind of stuff you could find in any midsize-apparel-driven chain store, where you could sometimes use coupons to get a discount. The Ivanka line may not have been carried at the most elite outlets, but it was in fairly respectable stores such as Nordstrom, Hudson Bay, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Still, business was good and income was growing. It may not have been what she envisioned, but it is what she adapted to.

Trump’s business continued to grow. She was having her products made in China, to sell in America, and profits were good. Her business as a whole was nearing a valuation of $100 million in late 2011. She expanded her lines more. She was selling elegance and exclusivity, but neither rung true anymore as her $11 costume jewelry flooded the market. As long as sales were good, however, business kept on. Then something happened. Her father, Donald J. Trump, ran for, and was elected, president. For Ivanka’s business, that was like Superfly Snuka coming off the top rope. It was lights out.

Suddenly her products were being boycotted, and her business was in the cross-hairs of the #grabyourwallet campaign. A couple stores dropped her line citing poor sales. Then a few more did. Then after the inauguration, another batch did. Trump flunkie, Kellyanne Conway, even breached ethical lines to give Ivanka’s business a plug while acting in her capacity as an administration adviser, as reported by the New York Times. It didn’t matter though, as more stores dropped her. Suddenly sales weren’t so good anymore.

Instead of castoffs from previous season’s lines showing up in TJ Maxx, Walmart, KMart, Sears, or Filene’s Basement, her current lines were flooding those stores. Before long, her products no longer got the kind of dedicated floor space that a custom rack just for her brand consumed. You could walk into a TJ Maxx and see an Ivanka bag hanging on the same hook as a Jessica Simpson bag. It wasn’t just that which started taking the glam off her celebrity brand, it was that her products were regularly deep discounted by 50 to 60 percent off, and sometimes even more. Being in the bargain bin isn’t what Ivanka was aiming for.

So out of the blue, Ivanka closes her business down. Even though it indirectly was the recipient of a no-tariff deal for her products with China, as per Fortune. Don’t forget she had visibility on demand, to be seen wearing anything her line produced, every single day if she felt like it. Suddenly she says she’s too busy to do it because she needs to focus on work at the White House according to WWD. It sounds wrong, and there is a reason for it: it’s a garbage excuse.

“When we first started this brand, no one could have predicted the success that we would achieve. After 17 months in Washington, I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business, but I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington, so making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners.”

When Ivanka went to Washington with her husband, Jared Kushner, so he could serve as an adviser to her father, she put her company in a trust. That came with her resigning from the company. Abigail Klem has been running the company as its president. It begs the question: since she isn’t designing her lines, and has no part in day-to-day operations, or executive level decisions until a point that the trust would have been dissolved, why close it down? Is it really a matter of having other things to do, a problem connected to patents received from China and that sweet tariff exclusion, or is it because no one wants what she’s selling anymore, but she can’t say that out loud and admit she ruined a business like her dear old dad does so often.

As a Bloomberg column stated in May of 2017, “Rich people don’t want Ivanka’s Trump’s fashion.” It would appear that no one else wants what she’s selling either. Not the Harry Winston crowd, not the Walmart crowd, not anyone in between. That is the kind of thing that can happen when your business background comes from someone that regularly bankrupts his own businesses, you tend to follow in the same footsteps, dooming yourself to failure as well. If a business had a penny to squeeze out of it still, would a Trump bail on it? Not likely. So tell us Ivanka, why did you really close up shop?