Are politics a missed merchandising opportunity?
With the 2016 presidential election captivating America, Urban Outfitters is benefiting from the sale of a wide range of merchandise bashing the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.
One item that continues to sell out has been a t-shirt bearing the phrase, “IDK NOT TRUMP THO.” Translating to “I don’t know, not Trump though,” the slogan went viral when a Los Angeles comedian posted it on social media. Urban Outfitters exclusively licensed the phrase. Other Trump items include a “Trump 20Never” pin, anti-Trump mugs and a book of Trump quotations mimicking Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book.
Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton gains more favorable “Hillary Runnin’ Thangs Tour 2016” t-shirts while one Bernie Sanders shirt reads, “Feel the Bern.”
Urban Outfitters’ t-shirts sometimes draw controversy but are largely irreverent, even when focused on politics. In advance of the 2012 elections, t-shirts bore a “2 Legit 2 Mitt” logo featuring a dancing Mr. Romney. Some saw risks in this year’s negative approach.
“It is unusual for a company to step so boldly into politics, particularly in a campaign as polarizing as this one,” Allen Adamson, founder of Brand Simple Consulting, told Bloomberg.
The anti-Republican slant also runs counter to the leanings of CEO Richard Hayne, who has a history of contributing to Republican campaigns.
But the anti-Trump message appears to resonate with Urban Outfitters’ younger customers. Melissa Arnoff, SVP at communications firm Levick, told Fortune that the chain “is known for hitting on what is trendy, and it is trendy right now to really not like Donald Trump.”
In a statement released to the media, Urban Outfitters said it “does not take positions in electoral politics” and its product choices are “largely driven by the demand of our customers and artistic partnerships.”
Not many other majors are merchandising around the election. Amazon is offering a wide range of t-shirts that are largely favorable to each candidate, although a few are negative, such as a “Lock Her Up” item for Mrs. Clinton.
American Apparel has earned attention for its “Make America Gay Again” t-shirts that play on Mr. Trump’s campaign theme while supporting LBGTQ rights.
- Trump Haters Bring Potential Windfall to Urban Outfitters – Bloomberg
- Being Anti-Trump Is Working for This Retailer – Fortune
- Urban Outfitters joins retailers using politics to profit – Glossy
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should political themes be a bigger merchandise opportunity for retail? What do you think of the approach taken by Urban Outfitters?