Just as the crucial holiday shopping season gets underway, Nordstrom finds itself under fire by animal-rights activists for being one of the declining number of retailers that still sell animal fur.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, blasted the Seattle-based retailer Monday for continuing to offer clothing products made from sable and other animal furs, even as competing retailers such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have gone “fur-free.”
PETA also emailed Erik Nordstrom, company co-president, with findings from a video “expose” detailing what it described as the “egregious cruelty to animals” in the fur industry in Russia, where, according to PETA, Nordstrom sources sable fur.
PETA officials pointed to links on the Nordstrom website for several fur products that appear to come from Russia, among them a reversible mink and sable fur stroller jacket, for $2,600, and a cashmere cardigan with a collar of Russian sable fur for $4,390.
“It’s hard to imagine why any business would continue to sell real fur when the public is so clearly opposed to it,” said Ashley Byrne, an associate director at PETA. “There are so many people who just won’t even shop at a store that sells fur now, so it’s really a pretty bad business decision on their part.”
PETA planned to share its findings at a downtown Seattle news conference Tuesday morning at the Hyatt at Olive 8, not far from the Nordstrom headquarters.
PETA’s campaign against Nordstrom comes on the heels of a string of developments this fall, including announcements that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s would stop selling fur by 2021 and a California law that prohibits all fur sales or manufacturing in 2023, the first state to do so.
Nordstrom, which appeared to have been caught off guard by PETA’s broadside campaign, released a terse statement late Monday afternoon:
“We’ve been paying close attention to this topic, particularly given the recent announcements coming out of various brands, publications and local governments. We realize our customers have different opinions, and our commitment to them has always been to listen to that feedback and be open to change. We try to balance those concerns with the fact we currently still have many customers who tell us they want to be able to purchase fur products at Nordstrom.”
PETA’s Byrne said Nordstrom’s continued sale of fur is all the more striking because the upscale retailer was previously known for a progressive policy on fur sales.
In the early 1990s, Nordstrom closed its in-store fur salons. In the early 2000s, Byrne said, Nordstrom eliminated fur from its Nordstrom private-label brands.
“There was a time when they were ahead of their peers,” Byrne said. “But now they’re lagging way behind their competitors.”
PETA’s criticism comes at a delicate moment for Nordstrom, which enters the all-important holiday shopping season with high hopes for an end to nearly a year of slack sales.
Last month the company reported mixed financial results – a continued decline in sales at its full-price stores, but tentative progress with its new “local” strategy, and good numbers from its new flagship store in Manhattan.
PETA appears to be taking advantage of both the timing of the shopping season and of Nordstrom’s recent efforts to reach younger shoppers. “Young consumers especially have completely turned against the fur industry,” Byrne said.
But Nordstrom may not accede to PETA’s pressure, some retail experts say. Not only do many Nordstrom customers still approve of fur products, but the retailer will also want to avoid any action that invites future demands by activists.
While Nordstrom needs to constantly assess the pros and cons of carrying fur, the company should avoid “reacting to specific protests,” said Kathy Gersch, a former Nordstrom vice-president who left in 2002 and now advises firms on organizational change for Kotter. “It can be a slippery slope if you try to respond to every single protest directly. It it will invite more and more of them.”
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