Several retailers, which sell Paula Deen cookware, were taking a wait-and-see approach.
Sears Holdings Corp. said it “is currently exploring next steps as they pertain to Ms. Deen’s products.” Target Corp. said it is “evaluating the situation.” Meyer Corp., which produces the cookware under the Paula Deen brand, declined to comment.
Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association, a trade group, said stores might have a tougher time determining whether to cut ties with Deen than Smithfield and the Food Network, where she has a public role.
“Once you take the wrapper off, her name isn’t necessarily on every piece of merchandise,” Brochstein said. “As a retailer or as a licensee, you have to evaluate. But you’re probably not going to gain anything by overreacting.”
Brochstein said stores likely are closely watching sales of the merchandise and monitoring social media as they gauge how consumers are responding.
“We’re in the midst of this. It hasn’t played out,” he added.
Deen’s rapid fall from favor came after the 66-year-old restaurant owner and Food Network star admitted in a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit that she used racial slurs in the past. Deen was asked under oath if she had ever used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”
Deen insisted she and her family do not tolerate prejudice, and in a videotaped apology, she asked fans and critics for forgiveness. It had been posted online for about an hour when the Food Network released a terse statement that it “will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month.” The network declined to comment further.
Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., which has Deen’s restaurants in some of its casinos, said Friday it “will continue to monitor the situation.” Publisher Ballantine, which has a new Deen book scheduled to roll out this fall, used similar words.
Earlier Monday, NBC’s Matt Lauer said Deen would appear Wednesday on “Today.” Last week she abruptly canceled on the morning show before posting her videotaped apologies.