South’s flag is pulled by big re­tail­ers

Wal- Mart, Tar­get and Sears are among those halt­ing sales of Con­fed­er­ate ban­ners.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Sa­man­tha Ma­sunaga

A grow­ing num­ber of re­tail­ers are halt­ing sales of the Con­fed­er­ate f lag and re­lated mer­chan­dise in re­ac­tion to its im­age as a sym­bol of racial hate, bur­nished by photos of the man ac­cused of gun­ning down nine African Amer­i­cans in a Charleston, S. C., church.

At least one man­u­fac­turer shared the re­tail­ers’ sen­ti­ment, de­cid­ing it would also halt pro­duc­tion of the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle f lag.

On Tues­day, Tar­get Corp., EBay Inc. and other re­tail­ers fol­lowed the lead of Wal- Mart Stores Inc. and Sears Hold­ing Corp. in say­ing they would stop selling the f lag in the face of grow­ing out­rage over its cel­e­bra­tion as a racist sym­bol.

Dy­lann Roof, a 21- yearold white man ar­rested in last week’s killings, em­braced the f lag as a sym­bol of his racist ide­ol­ogy as he posed with it in photos. He also boasted about his racist views online.

Say­ing they rec­og­nized the di­vi­sive­ness of the f lag, re­tail­ers started pulling Con­fed­er­ate mer­chan­dise from store shelves and online mar­ket­places to avoid alien­at­ing cus­tomers.

“We never want to of­fend any­one with the prod­ucts that we of­fer,” Wal- Mart spokesman Brian Nick said.

The an­nounce­ments fol­lowed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley’s call Mon­day to re­move the Con­fed­er­ate f lag from the state Capi­tol grounds.

“We have a process in place to help lead us to the right de­ci­sions when it comes to the mer­chan­dise we sell,” Nick said Tues­day. “Still, at times, items make their way into our as­sort­ment im­prop­erly. This is one of those in­stances.”

Sears Hold­ing said it was re­mov­ing Con­fed­er­ate f lag mer­chan­dise from its Sears and Kmart online stores. The com­pany said Con­fed­er­ate f lag mer­chan­dise was not sold in bricks- and- mor­tar stores.

Online mar­ket­place EBay said it would pro­hibit

sales of Con­fed­er­ate f lags and many items dis­play­ing the f lag be­cause “it has be­come a con­tem­po­rary sym­bol of di­vi­sive­ness and racism,” spokes­woman Johnna Hoff said.

“This de­ci­sion is con­sis­tent with our long- stand­ing pol­icy that pro­hibits items that pro­mote or glo­rify ha­tred, vi­o­lence and racial in­tol­er­ance,” she said.

Civil rights lead­ers called on Jeff Be­zos, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ama­zon. com Inc., to fol­low the lead of Wal- Mart and Sears and stop sales of the Con­fed­er­ate f lag.

“Ama­zon now has an op­por­tu­nity to again prove it is a good cor­po­rate citizen and join with other ma­jor re­tail­ers, busi­ness lead­ers and elected of­fi­cials that now call for an end to sales and dis­plays of a sym­bol that stands for hate and big­otry,” said Earl Ofari Hutchin­son, pres­i­dent of the Los An­ge­les Ur­ban Pol­icy Round­table.

Ama­zon did not com- ment, but Tues­day af­ter­noon many Con­fed­er­ate f lags were listed on the site as un­avail­able for sale. The three best- selling items on its site over the last 24 hours had been Con­fed­er­ate f lags, with sales of the most pop­u­lar f lag up 5,466%.

As ma­jor re­tail­ers hur­ried to ban the Con­fed­er­ate f lag, some web­sites saw a bo­nanza in sales.

Kerry McCoy, owner of f la­gand­ban­ner. com in Arkansas, said the site sold 50 lapel pins of the Con­fed­er­ate f lag Mon­day and even more Tues­day. Nor­mally, Con­fed­er­ate f lag sales make up less than 1% of its busi­ness, McCoy said.

“Not ev­ery­body that uses the Con­fed­er­ate f lag is do­ing it for hate,” she said. “Some of them have a fam­ily mem­ber that fought in that war. I’m not go­ing to deny one sec­tor of Amer­i­cans the right to f ly the f lag of their choice.”

At least one f lag man­u­fac­turer said it would stop mak­ing Con­fed­er­ate f lags.

“Un­for­tu­nately some­times it takes an event like this to kind of fo­cus you on do­ing the right thing,” said Reg­gie Van­den­Bosch, vice pres­i­dent of sales at Val­ley Forge Flag Co. in Wy­omiss­ing, Pa.

Tar­get, online hand­made mar­ket­place Etsy and mall chain Spencer Gifts also said they would ban sales of Con­fed­er­ate f lag mer­chan­dise.

Au­tomaker BMW, one of South Carolina’s largest em­ploy­ers, said Tues­day that it “ap­plauds the courage” of Ha­ley in call­ing for the Con­fed­er­ate f lag to be re­moved from the Capi­tol grounds.

Her stand was an about­face from a year ago, when Ha­ley, a Repub­li­can, de­fended the Con­fed­er­ate f lag on the state­house grounds.

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