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Retail Politics: U.S. Retail Industry Openly Reveal Political Affiliations

Democratic and Republican Parties Both Get Strong Support from Retailers

By

Rather than risk offending and alienating their customer base, most retail organizations and executives try to keep their politics separate from their business. Buying and selling products and services is a bipartisan activity, so an apolitical position is the safest and most prudent retail posture to take.

Some American businesses, however, seem to derive part of their brand identity from their political affiliations. Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, and just about every oil company and U.S. based airline are GOP stalwarts from way back. They are “big business and proud of it” organizations and their open alignment with the Republican Party seems to strengthen their image with traditional, conservative consumers.

More contemporary American brands like Apple, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and the three largest search engines in the world, Google, Yahoo, and MSN openly embrace the “change” agenda of the Democratic Party. These companies are “buck the status quo” organizations. If they didn’t vote “green” with the democrats, they would likely suffer a loss of reputation with their most fanatically loyal customers who are renegades themselves.

CEOs Pledge Their Allegiance

Beyond the obvious corporate affiliations, the politics of the company can often be determined by the politics of the current CEO. The retail leaders of some of the biggest U.S. retail organizations cast their vote in the 2008 presidential election long before the polls were open by providing financial support to candidate campaigns.

According to NNDB.com, which claims to be “an intelligence aggregator that tracks the activities of people… determined to be noteworthy, both living and dead,” both the Republican and Democratic parties have their share of high-profile retail executive support. The website lists the political alliances of hundreds of famous people, including some of the most well-known personalities in the retail industry.

Retail CEOs Who Supported Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Election:

  • Michael L. Ainslie, CEO of Sotheby’s 1984-94
  • Arthur Blank, Co-founder of Home Depot
  • Maxine Clark, CEO of Build-a-Bear Workshop
  • Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, 1984-2005
  • Alan Feldman, CEO of Midas
  • Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft
  • Stephen F. Gates, Former EVP Conoco-Phillips
  • Jack M. Greenberg, CEO of McDonald’s 1998-2002
  • Lawrence V. Jackson, Wal-Mart Executive
  • Sidney Kimmel, CEO of Jones Apparel Group, 1975-2002
  • James Kimsey, AOL’s founding CEO
  • Philip Marineau, CEO of Levi Strauss, 1999-2006
  • Norman S. Matthews, President and COO of Federated, 1987-88
  • Thomas J. Meredith, CFO of Dell, 1992-2000
  • George MrKonic, Jr., Former President of Borders
  • Craig Newmark, Founder Craigslist
  • Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s
  • Dan Rosensweig, COO of Yahoo, 2002-2007
  • Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks
  • Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo, 2001-2007
  • James Sinegal, CEO of Costco
  • Tom Stemberg, Founder and CEO of Staples, Inc.
  • Marvin Traub, CEO of Bloomingdale’s, 1978-1992
  • George Zimmer, founder and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse

The list of Republican retail leaders is just as long and equally prestigious.

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