Standing in the White House briefing room in February, Kellyanne Conway infamously turned an interview with Fox News into an infomercial for Ivanka Trump.
It was clear from the start that the PR stunt was a shameless violation of federal ethics rules that demanded punishment—or at least would have demanded one if the Trump administration were willing to enforce those rules. It was also something else, though: entirely successful.
Ivanka’s clothing brand is privately held, so it doesn’t have to make public its earnings or other financial info. (Trump stepped away from her business to take a job in the White House in March, but she still owns the company and will receive regular financial updates on it.) But the evidence that has emerged since Conway played the part of TV pitchwomen suggest Ivanka’s company is prospering—both generally from its association with her father’s presidency and, at least based on limited data, likely as a specific result of Conway’s comments and the ensuing controversy.
The G-III Apparel Group Ltd., which manufactures the Ivanka-branded clothes, recently announced that net sales for the collection grew by $17.9 million during the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31. The brand itself, meanwhile, claimed last month that that revenue was up 21 percent on the year, in large part thanks to its February sales, which company president Abigail Klem described as “some of the best performing weeks in the history of the brand.” (Remember: Conway made her comments on Feb. 9.) And then on Tuesday there was this nugget buried in an Associated Press report about separate concerns over China granting Ivanka preliminary approval of valuable trademarks. (Like father, like daughter.)
Data from Lyst, a massive fashion e-commerce platform, indicates some of this growth coincided with specific political events. The number of Ivanka Trump items sold through Lyst was 46 percent higher the month her father was elected president than in November 2015. Sales spiked 771 percent in February over the same month last year, after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway exhorted Fox viewers to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” … The bounce appears somewhat sustained. March sales on Lyst were up 262 percent over the same period last year.
The case that Conway was the cause of the spike is supported by an accompanying graph the AP ran with the story: Sales of Ivanka items were up 240 percent at Lyst from the previous year on Feb. 7, the day before President Trump complained on Twitter than Nordstrom was dropping his daughter’s brand from its stores. Sales from the previous year then jumped by 1,500 percent the day of Trump’s tweet, and then soared a staggering 10,700 percent the following day when Conway made her pitch on Fox News.
I asked Lyst to share the underlying data—that is, the number of items sold each month—but the company declined citing internal policy. It did, however, pass along some additional information that paints the type of picture you’d expect about who was filling their online shopping baskets with Ivanka apparel during this period. Lyst saw its largest February sales gains for Ivanka-branded products in states won by Donald Trump in the general election. The online retailer also reported sales of Ivanka items in 15 different states that Trump won that had not seen orders of a single Ivanka product from the site in the previous year.
As Lyst is only one site, it would be fair to take this information with a grain of salt, particularly given that the massive percentile increases suggest relatively small sample sets. But the general upward trend seems real. Online commerce tracker Slice Intelligence, for example, reported last month that U.S. sales of Ivanka products on Amazon were up 332 percent in January and February compared to a year prior.
As frustrating as it might be to see the Trumps benefit from such a brazen stunt, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Given the relatively small market penetration of the Ivanka brand, Conway’s “free commercial” for it—and the ensuing media frenzy—always seemed more likely to attract the attention of new customers than to turn off existing ones. The Trumps aren’t actually the business experts they play on TV, but it’s clear they understand that, more often than not, there really is no such thing as bad press. In fact, it’s hard to think of any other family for which that old saw should be more of an article of faith by now.