By Diana Falzone, ,
Published July 20, 2016
Urban Outfitters (URBN) has a line of politically-branded merchandise that enables customers to show off their political views.
Unless the customers are pro-Trump.
The line includes slogans like “IDK Not Trump Tho” and “Vote Trump 20NEVER.” It also includes pro-Hillary Clinton and pro-Bernie Sanders merchandise, and a book titled “Quotations From Chairman Trump,” which is touted on the website as being “Unfiltered. Unabridged. Unauthorized. Unbelievable.”
The clothier says they’re not taking sides, they’re just having fun.
“These t-shirts are novelty items, not a political statement on the part of URBN,” a rep for Urban Outfitters said in a statement. “We stock thousands of novelty products such as t-shirts and mugs with popular and/or humorous statements. We don’t commission these products; they are designed by independent artists who submit them to our merchandise buyers. Our product selection rotates frequently and is largely driven by the demand of our customers.”
But not everyone is buying it.
“Business should stay out of politics as a tool of marketing,” said Brad Blakeman, former member of President George W. Bush’s Senior Staff and current Professor of Public Policy, Politics and International Affairs at Georgetown University. “They should not support one party or candidate over another. I will never patronize a store because they are being political, but I am sure to never patronize a store that is.”
Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, told FOX411 that while a private business has the right to not support a specific candidate it is wise to represent all options to consumers, even those outside of the two major parties.
“Americans are pretty diverse in their political decisions. If they want to maximize sales, they ought to offer both sides: the Democratic nominee and the Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson,” Sarwark said. “After all, he's polling better than the Republican nominee among millennials, who are the core demographic for Urban Outfitters. It would be good for their bottom line.”
Democratic strategist David Mercer wondered if URBN did research to learn what their consumers would buy.
“Urban Outfitters has probably done their projections and from what they see would suggest a healthy, vibrant market for the goods that are anti-Trump,” said Mercer. He continued that left out Trump supporters could use the gap as an opportunity to open their “own kiosks selling pro-Trump merchandise.”
Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at The Media Research Center, said leaving out pro-Trump apparel is a bad business model although a seemingly deliberate choice on behalf of the clothing company.
“Offending a huge chunk of your market makes no sense,” he said. “But they made a business decision that they don’t want Trump supporters shopping there.”
Scott Pinsker agreed such a move could have financial effects on URBN.
“Obviously, not everyone who shops at Urban Outfitters is a committed leftist. Simply by offering a few pro-Trump items, even if they’re outnumbered by anti-Trump items ten-to-one, would shield Urban Outfitters from criticism and potential boycotts,” he said. “Political campaigns come and go, but alienating large portions of the public can haunt you for decades.”