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The three-day Coterie trade show taking place in New York’s sprawling Javits Center this week is a dizzying array of glittering jewelry, heels, furs, and clothing, divided by brand into mini-boutiques where store buyers peruse the selection and place orders for the upcoming season. It’s in this marketplace, one of a number of similar events that take place around the country, that retailers sort through the noise to locate the items they think their customers are most likely to want.
The space is so large and colorful that the Ivanka Trump shoe brand’s setup easily blended into its surroundings.
The First Daughter’s namesake fashion business, which she is no longer involved with on a day-to-day basis, has recently become a battleground on which consumers have used their purchasing power to express their anger toward or support of President Trump, but on Tuesday, there was no particular fuss over its presence on the trade show floor. One salesman at a nearby booth said he didn’t realize the brand was in the vicinity until he happened to walk that way while getting lunch.
Nor were store representatives studiously avoiding it. Unlike the major retailers who have pulled away from the Ivanka Trump brand, several boutique buyers interviewed said they were planning to put in orders for Ivanka Trump shoes that day.
A pair of women who own a store in Brooklyn and spoke on the condition of anonymity have been stocking Ivanka Trump shoes since the line launched and plan to continue doing so. They say they buy based on what sells, and for them, Ivanka Trump sells — the brand’s sandals and boots in particular.
“You’ve got to forget about politics,” one says. “Our customers really don’t care, they just want to look good.”
Cristina Mena, who buys for the South American wing of an international store chain, was on the hunt for shoes. Until now, her employer has only carried apparel, but it’s preparing to expand into footwear. The Ivanka Trump shoe brand, she says, will be one of the first lines it sells.
Walking through the footwear show at the Javits Center, Billie Lee of the e-commerce site Glameur New York says that she was hoping to start carrying Ivanka Trump shoes, pending approval from the brand. Her customers aren’t asking for it explicitly, but she thinks the quality, design, and price point are good. Ivanka Trump brand heels, pumps, and wedges are of particular interest to Lee.
For the Austin-based store Cove, which has a made-in-America bent, politics are more of a consideration. Jill Mirostaw, Cove’s manager who was at the Javits Center on Tuesday, says her team doesn’t want to turn off any customers on the basis of politics, but she does think customers would respond negatively if Cove started carrying Ivanka Trump pumps, which are made in China.
“If we picked it up all of a sudden, I think our customers would be annoyed,” she says. “We’d get a lot of eyerolls, for sure.”
Two salespeople working the Ivanka Trump tent declined to comment on how buyers were responding to their wares that day.
A pair of buyers for a boutique in New York who declined to share their names say Ivanka Trump’s shoes have sold out within a week of arriving to their store. They’ll continue selling the line as long as customers want it.
“[Customers] are actually asking for it,” one explains. “Once they try it, they like it and they come back for it.”
For them, the Ivanka Trump line is actually more popular now than ever before. They theorize that heightened name recognition from the presidential race, during which Ivanka Trump worked the campaign trail with her father and advocated for him on the topic of women’s issues, gave the Ivanka Trump brand a boost in popularity. (When it comes to President Trump’s record on women, numerous women have publicly accused him of sexual assault, and a widely circulated Access Hollywood video from 2005 shows Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy.”)
“Retail is about making sales at a profitable margin. I want to make sales and give my customer what they want. If that happens to be Ivanka Trump, because she’s got the ‘in’ item at the right price point and it’s profitable, then we’ll keep it in,” says Elizabeth Viera, a former Bloomingdale’s employee who now buys for Bevello, a chain of 33 stores across the southeast.
Viera was speaking in the hypothetical: Bevello doesn’t carry the Ivanka Trump line, nor was she at the trade show to scout shoes. She was there to buy jewelry.
Still, her words point to a common refrain among retailers. In many cases, the decision to carry a brand, or to drop it, is simply a matter of economics. When Nordstrom confirmed that it would no longer sell the Ivanka Trump brand in early February, its reps pointed to declining sales, not political pressure, as the reason for doing so.
“Right now margins are so tight in retail. The overhead is so high for retailers. Between paying for rent and making sure that you’re in the right place in each shopping mall, you don’t have a lot of margin for error,” says Viera. “So if something starts to slow down, you have to make decisions, and it might not be because: ‘We don’t stand for Ivanka Trump.’”
Along with Nordstrom, Burlington, Belk, and Neiman Marcus are among the stores that have reduced or eliminated Ivanka Trump products from their assortment.