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US Businesses Under Stress

Consumers are moving in waves to voice their concerns via their wallets, pledging boycotts and protests against companies perceived to be either for or against the new president
In Mexico, the campaign “Consumers, the cry of war” is urging people to boycott all American brands in protest against Trump’s anti-Mexican threats.In Mexico, the campaign “Consumers, the cry of war” is urging people to boycott all American brands in protest against Trump’s anti-Mexican threats.

Starbucks promises to hire 10,000 refugees? President Donald Trump's supporters call for a boycott. Uber allegedly takes advantage of the president's anti-immigration decree to drum up business? Users unsubscribe from the app en masse.

Trump's election has laid bare the deep divisions of American society, a discord that has forced many businesses to walk a fine line to avoid alienating consumers, AFP reported.

"Companies that were working very hard to stay neutral no longer can," says brand expert Bruce Turkel. "The biggest problem is anything they say can be misinterpreted."

Sportswear manufacturer New Balance, for instance, found itself embroiled in controversy after its CEO Matt LeBretton voiced optimism following the election.

"We feel things are going to move in the right direction," he said in an interview, prompting outrage on Twitter, where users called for a massive boycott of the sneaker company, forcing the brand into damage control.

"From the people who make our shoes to the people who wear them, we believe in acting with the utmost integrity and we welcome all walks of life," the company said.

Beverage giant PepsiCo faced similar backlash from the opposite camp. Two days after the election, the company's CEO Indra Nooyi said her employees "were all in mourning." "And the question that they're asking, especially those who are not white: Are we safe?" she said.

The retaliation came instantly: "It's probably a good time to pass on the Pepsi products," the conservative site The Gateway Pundit wrote.

No Margin 

Calls for boycotts often proliferate on internet forums such as Reddit and 4Chan, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Others originate from more structured protests.

The Grab Your Wallet site, launched in October, lists companies suspected of favoring Trump, either because their leaders contributed to the real estate billionaire's campaign or because they do business with the Trump family.

"Brands have always been political, but now consumers can see more of this activity and are making decisions based on this information," the site's cofounder Shannon Coulter says.

The impact of boycott campaigns is difficult to evaluate, however, because calls to blacklist specific companies tend to get lost in the frenzy of social media.

Consumers are moving in waves to voice their concerns via their wallets, pledging boycotts and protests against companies perceived to be either for or against the new president.

"Consumers have an incredibly short memory," marketing expert Merry Carole Powers says. 

Still, some companies fear losing customers by staying silent. Nordstrom, a chain of department stores, recently announced it would drop the Ivanka Trump clothing line belonging to the president's eldest daughter.

"There's no margin in the middle," says Turkel, who recently wrote the book "All About Them," focused on company branding. "If you stay quiet, you get nothing out of it. You have to figure out who your audience is and what are their values."

Mexicans Boycott US Brands

In Mexico, the campaign "Consumers, the cry of war" is urging people to boycott all American brands in protest against Trump's anti-Mexican threats.

From border towns to the bustling capital, Mexicans are fuming about Trump's plan to erect a wall between the long-time allies and the threats to use a 20% tariff on Mexican goods to finance it, CNN reported.

As politicians weigh their options, regular Mexicans aren't waiting. Many are taking to social media to get even—or at least blow off some steam.

Campaigns were launched on social media, urging Mexicans to boycott McDonald's, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Walmart after Trump signed an executive order for the construction of the wall.

Starbucks defended itself, saying that its local division is a Mexico-owned franchise which employs some 7,000 Mexicans and features Mexican-grown coffees.

Also many consumers believe boycotts will only hurt Mexicans.

7.7% Black Americans Jobless

While the economy has added millions of jobs over the last year, and in January added 227,000 which drove an unemployment rate of 4.8%, the rate among black Americans remained high at 7.7%, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Sunday. Job gains occurred in retail trade, construction, and financial activities. 

The unemployment rate among white Americans is lower than the national rate, and was 4.3% last month. Among Asian Americans, it was 4.7%.

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