Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry: Retailers Skeptical Brand Will Continue
Small, independent retailers have been left with pricey baubles they can't sell.
A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump’s company has been painting a rosy picture of the brand’s future, but some independent jewelry retailers around the U.S. don't agree.
“It’s over,” says Harvey Rovinsky, president of Bernie Robbins Jewelers, an independent retailer with four locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “We’ve been told that once the [jewelry] inventory they have has been sold off, that’s it, there won’t be any more.”
Maria Frasca, owner of Frasca Jewelers in Palm Desert, Calif., says she was told a slightly different story. “I heard that if we want pieces from the existing collections that they’ll be produced, but there will be no new collections,” she says.
Both statements seem supported by the news that the Ivanka Trump Collection, which features fine jewelry from $420 to more than $25,000, will not participate in this year’s Couture Jewelry Show, an annual jewelry and watch trade fair set to take place June 2-6 in Las Vegas. A Couture spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday that Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, which has presented its collections at the show since 2013, is not on this year’s exhibitors list.
Last week’s news that Neiman Marcus is no longer offering Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry on its website, followed by the Dallas-based retailer’s statement that its “very small” inventory of the collection is all on consignment in stores, has been met with frustration by the independent retailers who continue to carry Trump’s jewelry designs.
Major retailers with buying clout like Neiman Marcus are able to take pricey merchandise on consignment, or “on memo,” meaning they don’t pay the jewelry brand for a piece until a consumer purchases it. Smaller independent retailers typically don’t enjoy that luxury and must buy product outright at wholesale prices. “Us little guys, we have to commit to it. I have to sell what I have,” Frasca says.
More than a dozen U.S. retailers listed on the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry website were contacted for this story; many declined to comment or did not return calls seeking comment. One retailer, Chicago-based Marshall Pierce & Company, noted that the collection has performed well. “It’s been pretty steady and sells very well for us,” says Sally Klarr, director of marketing and public relations for Marshall Pierce.
Klarr’s sentiment jibes with the statement released on Friday by Rosemary K. Young, senior director of marketing at Ivanka Trump: “The Ivanka Trump brand continues to expand across categories and distribution with increased customer support, leading us to experience significant year-over-year revenue growth in 2016. We believe that the strength of a brand is measured not only by the profits it generates, but the integrity it maintains. The women behind the brand represent a diverse group of professionals and we are proud to say that the Ivanka Trump brand continues to embody the principles upon which it was founded. It is a company built to inspire women with solution-oriented offerings, created to celebrate and service the many aspects of their lives.”
Frasca, however, says she decided this past weekend that she no longer wanted to carry Trump’s fine jewelry and has contacted representatives of the brand to request that her store’s name be removed from the website. “The line hadn’t sold for a long time,” she explains. “It had been limping along, and then there was a little attention after the election. But I don’t brand it anymore. If someone asks to see Ivanka Trump pieces I show them, but otherwise they’re just among other pieces in our cases.”
Trump’s jewelry collection is licensed through New York-based Julius Klein Group, which occupies the same building, 580 Fifth Ave., listed as the business address for Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry. Rovinsky says he has contacted JKG about taking back unsold pieces, to no avail. “I’ve had conversations with the licensee, and the licensee wants no part of taking [product] back,” he says. (Multiple calls and emails to Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry and Julius Klein Group were referred to Hiltzik Strategies, a New York-based consulting firm that has been called a “crisis shop” by Advertising Age; in the past, Hiltzik Strategies has represented such clients as Alec Baldwin and Miramax. Hiltzik Strategies declined to answer submitted questions or provide further comment.)
Do independent retailers have any recourse with product they can’t sell? “Depending on the contract, there may be some provisions for buybacks,” says Sara Yood, senior counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, a New York-based nonprofit association that provides legal education, self-regulation tools and other services to the jewelry industry. Without the ability to view specific contracts, Yood was hesitant to confirm any solutions that might be available, but noted that mediation services could be an option. “We offer a dispute-resolution service that’s essentially a mediation service between businesses in the jewelry industry or between a jeweler and a consumer,” she says. “The goal is to reach some sort of amicable solution, but both parties have to agree to mediation.”
Rovinsky calls the situation “unfortunate,” also because he has enjoyed working with Trump in the past. “She actually did a personal appearance for us a couple of years ago, and she was great. I think she’s a terrific woman,” he says. “But Ivanka Trump was the face of the brand, and now there’s a disconnect between the woman and the product. This is a business issue.”