Shoppers to Wegmans: Dump Trump wines or face boycotts

Dive Brief:

  • Wegmans Food Market is facing criticism from consumers for carrying wines produced by Trump Winery, a business venture connected to President Donald Trump, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. The "Stop Trump Wines" group has called on Virginia consumers to boycott supermarkets, retailers and restaurants that do business with Trump Winery, which is headed by Donald Trump's son, Eric Trump.

  • The 92-store chain has been carrying bottles from the Charlottesville, Va. winery in its Virginia store locations since 2008, when the winery was owned by Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard. 

  • "Our role as a retailer is to offer choice to our customers," Wegmans spokesperson Jo Natale told the Democrat & Chronicle. "How a product performs is our single measure for what stays on our shelves and what goes."    

Dive Insight:

Well before he expressed aspirations to run for president, Donald Trump made a gift to one of his sons, Eric: He bought him a winery in the Charlottesville, Va. area. That was in 2011 — a time when the Trump brand was less controversial. 

Now, consumers are hyper-aware of any product that carries a Trump label — and shoppers opposed to the president are taking their wallets elsewhere. The Grab Your Wallet campaign, which calls on consumers to boycott retailers that carry Trump-related products, has gained prominence in the weeks since Trump's inauguration, especially on social media. 

Wegmans is only the latest retailer to face consumer criticism for carrying products connected to the Trump family fortune: Most recently, department store retailer Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump's product line. While the retailer said the decision came down to sales performance, the company faced backlash from President Trump on Twitter. 

For Wegmans and other retailers that have come under political fire for carrying Trump products, it's like being caught between a rock and a hard place. While retailers may not want to get caught up in political controversy, it's increasingly impossible for companies carrying Trump brand products to depoliticize any decision they make. 

It's unclear if the boycott will gain traction. If sales of Trump wines dip, Wegmans could give up shelf space to another product. But if sales remain steady — or even see a surge from Trump supporters fighting against the boycotts — the retailer could continue to sell them, despite any bad press. The bottom line for Wegmans could come down to its consumer demographics — and whether more of its shoppers are pro- or anti-Trump.

The Trump era will increasingly force retailers to recognize that "being political" goes beyond issues like safety in overseas factories, environmental sustainability and human rights, according to retail futurist Doug Stephens.

“We live in a world where retailers are finding themselves having to become more politically responsive — whether they like it or not,” he told sister site Retail Dive in an email. “Few issues, however, have been as as polarizing as Trump-branded merchandise. And just as America is divided what to make of the Trumps, it appears equally conflicted on how brands and retailers have chosen to respond to them. While some consumers applaud moves by TJ Maxx, Starbucks and Nordstrom, others propose to boycott the retailers themselves.”

Filed Under: Grocery Policy Beverages