Sears and Kmart have evicted "a very small number" of Trump-branded items from their online stores, but won't specify how many and emphasize that hundreds of products are still available through their third-party online marketplaces.
It's another sign of how companies are trying to tread a careful line, after President Donald Trump rebuked Nordstrom publicly on his Twitter account for deciding to stop selling his daughter Ivanka Trump's clothing and accessories line. He said Nordstrom had treated his daughter "so unfairly." Ethics experts saw the comment as a threat to companies that carry the brand and may be weighing the question of whether to keep doing so.
Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp. the parent company of Sears and Kmart, entered the fray over the weekend when Reuters reported the stores would discontinue online sales of its 31 items from the Trump Home collection, which includes lines of living room and bedroom furniture, lamps and chandeliers.
Brian Hanover, a spokesman for Sears Holdings, told Reuters the decision was made "amid a streamlining effort."
"As part of the company's initiative to optimize its online product assortment, we constantly refine that assortment to focus on our most profitable items," Hanover said.
But on Monday, a company spokesman said hundreds of the items are still available on its website through third-party sellers. Spokesman Chris Brathwaite said in a blog post suggestions that the chains have removed Trump "do not do justice to our business or this specific brand of products that we offer through our marketplace sellers,"
Other companies that have been scaling back or dropping Trump merchandise are hoping to avoid a backlash or the boycott threats Nordstrom saw, issuing carefully crafted and brief statements if they address the mater at all. Belk Inc. said it will no longer carry Ivanka Trump items on its website, and QVC has said it no longer sells the merchandise. Macy's Inc., which carries the Ivanka Trump brand, hasn't responded to multiple queries Associated Press. And Lord & Taylor has only said it currently carries the brand.
This tiptoeing is in response to politically active shoppers who are using their purchasing power to punish retailers or reward them based on their political beliefs, a trend that has become more high-profile with Donald Trump's presidency.
Sears can ill-afford to alienate customers. The faltering retail chain said last week it may sell more locations, cut more jobs and put more of its famous brands on the block. The company has been losing money for years and has received millions from its hedge fund-founder CEO to keep it afloat.
Brathwaite said the company monitors products, adding items that are in demand and removing products with declining demand.
The Ivanka Trump brand has said it saw sales growth of 21 percent in 2016 from the previous year as it expanded its categories, distribution and offerings.
"In recent days, we've seen our brand swept into the political fray, becoming collateral damage in others' efforts to advance agendas unrelated to what we do," the company said.