While a growing number of major retailers rushed Tuesday to halt sales of the Confederate flag after the recent shooting deaths of nine black church members in South Carolina, at least one local shop owner is continuing to carry the banner.
“We have a whole section on historical flags,” Watson said. “But it’s never been one of your bigger sellers, even among historical flags, and that continues to be true today.”
A wave of national retailers started pulling Confederate flags after Wal-Mart said that it would remove all Confederate-themed items from its store shelves and website after the South Carolina-shooting suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, appeared in photos holding the flag.
Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Sears, Spencer Gifts and Target were among those removing Confederate flag merchandise.
The red-white-and-blue Confederate battle flag represents racism to many and Southern heritage to others. The debate over its place exploded after the church attack.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said on Monday that the flag should be removed from the Statehouse grounds. On Tuesday, South Carolina lawmakers agreed to discuss removing the flag.
Also on Tuesday:
• Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe moved to banish the Confederate flag from one of that state’s license plates.
• In Mississippi, state House Speaker Philip Gunn called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from that state’s flag.
• In Tennessee, both Democrats and Republicans called for the removal of a bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from an alcove outside the state Senate’s chambers.
• NASCAR, the motorsports series with strong Southern roots, issued a statement saying that it will “continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate Flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity.” In 2012, NASCAR and track officials canceled plans to have pro golfer Bubba Watson drive the car from the television series The Dukes of Hazzard at Phoenix International Raceway, citing concerns about the Confederate flag on the roof of the “General Lee” automobile.
But even as organizations distanced themselves from the controversial banner and national retailers pulled Confederate flags, manufacturers that produce the divisive symbol say sales are surging.
“I don’t sell the Confederate flag for any specific group, I just sell the flag,” said Kerry McCoy, owner and president of Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com. “This is America. Everybody has a right to be represented whether you are a history buff or a nut.”
The company expects to sell about 50 of the flags over the next week, McCoy said. That’s about half of what they typically sell in a year.
Locally, the Flag Lady’s store has sold four Confederate flags this year, two in the store and two online.
“I’ve been curious about it, so I went back in our records to 2010, and we’ve sold anywhere from four to seven (Confederate) flags a year,” Watson said.
The big seller this year at the Flag Lady’s store has been the Stars and Stripes.
“American flag sales are really up,” Watson said. “I don’t know if it’s all the controversy, but our sales numbers are way up. We surpassed American flag sales numbers from June 2014 on June 20. It’s been interesting. We’re not sure what’s going on.”
While the Confederate flag represents a small slice of their business, those that produce them say they have no plans to stop.
Pete Van de Putte said sales of Confederate flags are surging at his Dixie Flag Manufacturing in San Antonio, Texas. He said he has sold more flags in the past couple of days than he typically would have sold over a couple of months.
“Any time there is a controversy about any flag, we sell more flags,” he said. “It’s not like selling tires or washing machines.
“When people come in here, they’re buying their national pride, their ethnic origin … so people are naturally passionate about the product.”
Columbus-based discount and closeout retailer Big Lots “does not carry any merchandise promoting the Confederate flag, nor will we,” a spokesman said.
Sales of Confederate flag T-shirts have been nonexistent locally, said Zach Traxler, owner of Traxler Custom Printing.
“We’ve never had a request for Confederate flag shirts here in Ohio,” Traxler said. “Even with our Southern state client base — in North Carolina and South Carolina. Just the ‘Don’t tread on me’ (T-shirts).”
Information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times was included in this story.
Kerry McCoy is founder and president of FlagandBanner.comand publisher of Brave Magazine. Kerry has been in the flag business for more than 40 years. If you would like Kerry for an interview or to speak at your event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with details.