Ivanka Trump’s business ventures in China have vanished alongside her Weibo persona, just four years after their high-profile entrance to the market that she once declared one of her “primary focuses going forward.”
The Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry store in Parkview Green, a high-end shopping mall in downtown Beijing, was closed last year, according to a staffer of the mall who answered the phone, and the store is no longer listed on the website of the mall.
"The store was opened in a brand new mall without a proven track record of traffic," an Ivanka Trump brand spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, when asked about the store’s closure.
Records on the Credit Information System of Beijing Enterprises, a website under China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce, show that the store officially folded last month. It’s a sharp turn from Trump’s comments at the time the store first opened in 2013, when she told the Wall Street Journal that she thought her brand had entered China, a battlefield for luxury brands, “with the right partner, with the right project, in the right city, in the right location.”
"[The Ivanka Trump company] showed lots of interest in the Chinese market,” Zhu Tianmo, the one name listed as “staff” on the Weibo page of Ivanka Trump’s jewelry brand, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “But when it came to daily operation, I don’t think there was a lot of support,” Zhu added.
The store opened through a licensing agreement with Studio1601 Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company. (Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has used a similar licensing plan with his own name on several projects, several of which have failed, leaving investors unable to seek recourse from Trump.) The spokesperson for Trump’s brand declined requests to provide information about Ivanka Trump’s oversight of the site or any future plans for the region. The spokesperson also declined to disclose the amount paid by Studio1601 Ltd.
Multiple attempts to reach Studio1601 through publicly listed phone calls and email addresses either didn’t receive a response or failed to be delivered.
Parkview Green, part of the Parkview Group, a conglomerate of private companies founded in Taiwan in the 1950s, didn’t respond to questions from BuzzFeed News about its daily number of visitors. The booth where Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry once stood is now replaced by a luxury jewelry brand from Monaco.
Trump expected a bright future in mainland China and the surrounding region. According to a 2011 press release published in the Mandarin version of Vogue, Trump planned to launch her jewelry line’s first branch in the region in Beijing and expand to Shanghai, Macau, Hong Kong and Taipei the following year, in partnership with Studio1601 Ltd., an experienced regional distributor for international luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. The next year, she took a trip to Beijing in part to solidify her business goals for the country.
The same press release in Vogue also estimated that the new stores would be able to bring in a minimum annual revenue of $3,000,000 each once opened. None of the other planned Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry stores ever materialized.
The venture’s collapse can be added to a number of other controversial business deals and scandals for the Trump family in the region: Ivanka Trump’s fashion lines were shown to be using as using cheap Chinese labor while her father slammed China for stealing US workers’ jobs during his presidential campaign; the negotiations for her father’s Beijing hotel project, worth $1 billion, were halted after the Chinese authorities launched a corruption investigation against a state-run Chinese electricity company, Trump’s Chinese partner, for illegal usage of public land for the project.
The closure of the store Ivanka Trump licensed her name to also comes as a boycott of her clothing brands is underway. The women behind the boycott believe that Ivanka, who has been a major advisor to her father during his campaign, has downplayed and excused his lewd comments. Until the boycott, Trump’s brands were reportedly benefiting from the campaign.
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump’s personal Weibo account, active for two and a half years between 2012 and 2015, was deactivated in August, shortly after Foreign Policy first reported its existence.
Zhu, the woman who ran the jewelry brand’s Weibo, said she worked as the public relations manager at Gangshuang Beijing Ltd. until 2015. According to Zhu, Gangshuang was set up by Studio1601 specifically for the distribution of Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry in mainland China. Records with the Credit Information System of Beijing Enterprises show that the Hong Kong company invested four million yuan ($600,000) to set up the mainland subsidiary.
Before Donald Trump’s campaign announcement in June 2015, 650 posts were published on Ivanka Trump’s personal Weibo account about her brand and life, with generic captions like “I’m a New York City girl at heart.” The account gained 19,000 followers between November 2012 and May 2015 when it abruptly stopped. All that remains now is an empty page under a random handle — @Space12341234 — with a large following. The jewelry line’s dedicated brand account on Weibo also hasn’t been updated since March 2015.
But Ivanka Trump herself was never actually a presence on the Chinese internet: Zhu admitted previously on Weibo, and during a phone interview with BuzzFeed News, to be the sole mastermind behind the existence of the two accounts. After her resignation in 2015, their social presence was neglected, although she handed back keys to the accounts. She wasn’t sure about the real reason behind the recent deactivation but suspected that political concerns could be an influencing factor.
As her Chinese ghostwriter, Zhu defended Trump’s effort in the China operation, but admitted it was a failure. “There was a finance problem, and business wasn’t great. Even with the large input, it wasn’t particularly promising,” she said.