retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, MNB took note of a New York Times story saying that several outdoor and clothing equipment retailers, including REI and Patagonia, are challenging a plan announced by the Trump administration “to slash the size of two national monuments in Utah by some two million acres.” President Trump plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, by half.

Patagonia, for example, sent an email to people on its mailing list in which it said the following:

“The president stole your land. In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”

The same message is prominently displayed on Patagonia’s website.

At the same time, Patagonia has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration that will challenge its plans for the public lands.

Yesterday, GQ had a follow-up story, noting that “many people lauded the company’s decision to defy Trump. Among the most popular sentiments: I’m about to buy myself and everyone I know some fleece.

“And fleece they bought, according to sales data from Slice Intelligence, a company that measures online shopping. Slice compared each day last week to sales numbers on November 1, a day unaffected by external factors—a shopping holiday like Black Friday, or Patagonia’s anti-Trump statement.”

The GQ story says that “on Tuesday, the day immediately following the late-afternoon statement, Patagonia’s external web sales—that is, Patagonia gear sold online by non-Patagonia retailers, according to Slice—were six times higher than a typical day. And shopping goodwill remained strong the entire week: Sales were more than five times higher on Wednesday and five times higher on Thursday. Overall, sales were 7 percent stronger the week of the statement than they were the previous week - which included Cyber Monday.”

The message, GQ suggests, is that “in Trump’s America, it pays to be part of the #resistance. That’s not to impugn the brand’s motives, actions, or statements—it’s just to note that, in this case, they exist hand-in-hand with a display of masterful marketing. And with Patagonia, those two things are never mutually exclusive.”
KC's View:
I think that the GQ conclusion needs to be clarified a bit. It may pay off for companies to be part of the resistance movement, but only if the political/values positions being taken are in synch with those of the company’s core consumers. That’s certainly the case here, but it would not be the case for every company.

It is worth taking positions sometimes, but you’d better know what you’re doing … who your customers are and what is important to them … and it better be authentic, because phoniness could be more dangerous than taking a political position.

One other thing. There were factions that, in support of the Trump initiatives, suggested in their own publicity efforts that this was just a marketing ploy by Patagonia, that the company “just wants your money.” I think it is worth pointing out that these factions should’ve done their homework, because Patagonia actually long has been forthright about being anti-excess consumption, promoting reuse and recycling programs for its products.

In 2011, as we reported here on MNB, the company sent out an email recommending that customers notbuy a particular jacket and supporting the Common Threads initiative, which is designed to generate support for a lifestyle that reduces excess consumption and gives “the planet's vital systems a rest from pollution, resource depletion and greenhouse gases.”

Like I said, Patagonia’s efforts have been consistent and totally on-brand.