LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Mass protests may become a fixture of Donald Trump's presidency. Yesterday, activists marched in cities across America to pressure the president to release his tax returns and highlight potential Trump family conflicts of interest. But others believe a boycott is the better approach.
The San Francisco woman behind the #GrabYourWallet boycott of Trump family products is now looking to expand the movement. NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.
ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Shannon Coulter didn't spend her college years occupying various administration buildings. She's a career digital marketing consultant.
SHANNON COULTER: I don't consider myself an activist. Even now, it's a strange label to me. I think of myself first and foremost as a businessperson, and the newer role of activist is still taking shape for me.
WESTERVELT: But last fall, the 45-year-old was outraged by Donald Trump's comments about women - you know, the one where he said you can do anything when you're a star, grab them by the genitals. It was picked up by a hot mic on "Access Hollywood." Back then, Coulter tweeted a screenshot of a handful of companies that sell Trump family products. The boycott was born.
Today, #GrabYourWallet's simple spreadsheet on a website of the same name gets more than 2 million unique views a month - not bad for an organization with no budget, no employees and no permanent office. Coulter met me in a rent-by-the-day office in downtown San Francisco. There are now more than 50 companies she encourages people to boycott because they sell Trump products or because a member of the company's board has backed Trump's campaign.
COULTER: If you're going to give money to the campaign of a guy who makes fun of disabled people, who questions the nationality of our country's first black president, who likes to grab women by the genitals, you are going to raise the ire of consumers. That's a part of your brand, and any company that thinks it's not a part of their brand is being naive.
WESTERVELT: Coulter's weathered hate mail and nasty phone calls and tweets from Trump supporters, as well as numerous denial of service attacks on her website. It's not clear what, if any, economic impact the boycott is having. Studies show these consumer protests often have a limited effect on a company's bottom line and long-term corporate policies. But a brand's reputation can take a hit.
Coulter's success metric for this isn't a company's stock price or quarterly sales. It's how many companies have been taken off the boycott list. So far, it's about two dozen, including Nordstrom, Kmart and Neiman Marcus.
COULTER: Some have made public statements and some haven't. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter why a company has dropped Trump products, only that they have.
WESTERVELT: More than 50 companies remain boycott targets, including Amazon, MillerCoors, Wal-Mart and L.L. Bean. We reached out to more than a dozen companies. All declined to comment, except for MillerCoors. Pete Coors, a board member of the parent company, has actively supported Trump. In a statement, the company said, boycotting our brands only harms our hardworking employees and their families.
Coulter says one sure sign of the boycott's broader impact is the speed with which dozens of companies quickly stopped advertising on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against the host.
COULTER: There's just a lot of appetite right now to understand how we, as consumers, can use our spending power to promote inclusivity and respect in our society.
WESTERVELT: Coulter is now talking with a wide range of people about how to morph this movement into a wider, nonprofit vehicle for taking on Trump and advocating for broader corporate social responsibility.
COULTER: It feels like this movement wants to be something more than it is today. There's a lot of momentum behind this. There's a lot of activity around it still, and I want to leverage that into something larger.
WESTERVELT: For now, Coulter will continue to encourage Trump opponents to see daily shopping as a deeply political act. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, San Francisco.
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