Skyrocketing sales of symbol of white Southern U.S. pride, racism proves boon for China as U.S. retailers, manufacturers boycott Confederate flag in wake of racist South Carolina church massacre
By Nate Thayer
June 24, 2015
Sales of the Confederate flag have skyrocketed in recent days in the wake of racially charged fallout from the South Carolina mass murder at a black church, and nearly all of the estimated hundreds of thousands of new orders in recent days will be of flags manufactured in China.
“We had a huge surge in orders of Confederate flag starting yesterday and it has been crazy today,” said Jane Walker President of MadeinUSAFlags.com in a telephone interview. “But there are only three major flag manufacturers in the US, and they each announced they stopped selling Confederate flags late last night.”
Walker says that the vast majority of flags of all kinds sold in the U.S. are made in China–including the Confederate flag.
And that ratio has just expanded into a near monopoly.
Made in USA Flags sells thousands of items of versions of flags and related merchandise. But “since no American manufacturer will be able to supply us with an American made product, we will no longer carry Confederate Flags,” Walker said. She said she had run out of stock yesterday, but that didn’t stop “so many new orders I haven’t even counted from coming in since. I can’t keep up with it. It has been crazy today,” she said, answering her office phone at 9:00 PM Wednesday, still at work. “I have spent all day telling people I can’t fulfill their orders. Honestly, we sell flags about everything. It is just a flag. But what do I know, I am just a little Iowa girl,” said the entrepreneur who runs her small business out of her home.
On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, asked state lawmakers to write legislation banning the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.
This sparked an avalanche of retailers and politicians to scurry to distance themselves from the flag, which has become synonymous to the racially inspired mass murders last Wednesday in Charleston.
These developments happened at the height of a surge in sales of the flag.
Before the church massacre on Wednesday June 17, sales of the confederate flag did not even register among the top 60 items on Amazon. On Monday, June 22, Amazon showed two Confederate flags among the 60 bestselling items under “Outdoor Flags and Banners”: one at the No. 5 spot, and one at No. 43. By Tuesday morning, five of the top 20 bestsellers were Confederate flags, including the No. 1 bestseller. In the top 60, 12 were the Confederate flag.
Walmart, Sears, Google, eBay, and Amazon all announced Tuesday they would halt sales of the Confederate flag.
But a vast majority of sales of Confederate flags and paraphernalia in America’s largest retail stores and the behemoth online sales platforms have been of flags made in China.
Then late Tuesday, the only three large manufacturers of Confederate flags in the U.S. also announced they had ceased both manufacturing and selling the products. Valley Forge Flags, Annin Flag makers, and Eder Flags–the three largest flag manufacturers who actually make the flags in America, all announced they were halting sales effective immediately.
“We hope that this decision will show our support for those affected by the recent events in Charleston and, in some small way, help to foster racial unity and tolerance in our country,” Valley Forge Flag said in a statement.
Annin Flag makers, the largest flag maker in the U.S. which has been manufacturing flags since 1847, also late Tuesday announced its decision to halt all further distribution and sales of the flag.
Also on Tuesday, the Flag Manufacturers Association of America (FMAA), said they would reconsider whether sales by all 38 member companies would halt. “We don’t want to cause someone continued pain because [of] what [the Confederate flag] represents,” Reggie VandenBosch, president and chairman of FMAA told CNN Money. “We’ll definitely spend time as an industry group discussing that.”
“It’s not something regularly produced,” VandenBosch told USA Today. “It’s not even a tenth of a percent of the overall business.”
But that was not the case in the flag selling industry this week where sales of the Cofederate flag shot through the roof.
“It was unbelievable how many orders we were getting yesterday, and then sometime after 5:00 last night, the three biggest flag manufacturers in the U.S. announced at the same time they would no longer sell Confederate flags. They are taking a huge loss on existing stock,” said Jane Walker of MadeintheUSA Flags. “Since we cannot obtain the flags, we had to stop selling them. We only sell American made products. Look at the name of our company.”
While FMAA’s U.S.-based members have abandoned Confederate flag manufacturing and sales, China has not. The new void likely will be filled by China, where the political fisticuffs over the issue is not even on their radar screen. Scores of smaller Chinese manufacturers continue to make and export the confederate flag to the heart of Dixie in the U.S.
“I didn’t get a chance to watch the news last week,” Maggie Ma, of Qianxi Flag Co. in the Chinese city of Wuhan told International Business News. She was unaware of the U.S. political debate.
“We’re always working and working, we don’t have any time to study these kind of things,” said Jessie Liu, general manager of sales at Xiangying Textile in Shaoxing, south of Shanghai. When told about the controversy in the U.S., Liu said: “Will they ban production? It might have a small impact on us, but not a very big one.” She told IBT her biggest sellers were the flags of Australia, Canada and the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of U.S. flags sold annually.
While Confederate flags are not remotely a hot item for Chinese manufacturers, there certainly is now more than ever new money to be made. In addition, most of the smaller U.S. sellers have long found it considerably cheaper to buy flags made in China. “I don’t think people in the U.S. will stop using this flag altogether,” Alex Chen, sales manager at Shanghai-based Totem Flags, told International Business Times. “It’s a tradition.”
China’s huge online retail seller, the Alibaba Group, did join American retailers on Wednesday June 23, saying they would cease distributing products displaying Confederate flag imagery in the wake of last week’s mass shooting. “Alibaba Group prohibits listings of materials that are ethnically or racially offensive across its platforms. As such, we will be removing listings for flags, clothing and other memorabilia that display the Confederate flag imagery,” spokeswoman Rachel Chan told Reuters in an email.
CONFEDERATE FLAG DEALERS HAVE BEEN DELUGED WITH SALES ORDERS
But that won’t stop scores of die-hard Confederate flag defenders from purchasing the flag. By dozens of accounts, sales have gone through the roof since Monday, June 22. And a vast majority of those Confederate flags are made in China and exported to the heart of Dixie in America’s South.
The owner of the Rebel Store in North Carolina said sales of the flag “have been unbelievable” and had jumped from 20 a day to more than 3000 in recent days, forcing him to stop taking orders just to catch up.
Freddie Rich said “We have received over 3,000 orders in less than 24 hours, when a good day for us is 20 orders in 24 hours. We are filling them and shipping in the order in which they were received…..We appreciate your support during this terribly sad time while the intolerant, the mean-spirited, and the uneducated attack our Proud Southern Heritage with a vengeance. Sorry – we have sold out . Thank you so much – our faith in the South has been renewed!”
“As soon as we are “caught up” with the backlog, we will again have the website back up and running,” Rich added. “Please don’t worry that we will ever bow to the historically stupid, politically correct.”
The Georgia based proudrebel.com is an online distributor of southern heritage paraphernalia, dominated by the image of the Confederate flag. The owner also said they had been inundated by sales orders. But the site put up images of Israeli and black oriented images to mitigate accusations of Confederate flag vendors being racist. “Proud Rebel is NOT racist!” they said. “The images above are displayed to keep supremacists away from Rebel merchandise! There were Jewish, Catholic, Indian, and Black Confederates, PROUD REBELS, every one!”
“We are a small flag company located in Georgia – the heart of Dixie. We have received some pressure and less than polite “requests” to stop selling the Confederate battle flag,” said John Nesbit, co-owner of Ultimate Flags.com. “As ardent supporters of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution we don’t appreciate it much when people want to ban a flag – or harass us about selling it to our fellow Americans. To these bullies I say you can KISS MY GRITS!”
Nesbit, who described himself as a “descendant of Paul Revere”, posted a long letter about the flag controversy which reads in part “No one can honestly say that everything done in that flags name was honorable and decent, and no one wants to return to that more backwards time in our history. However, it does have historical a cultural significance that cannot be denied.”
Alotta Signs of Sparks, Nev., sold about five Confederate flags per week before the issue grabbed national headlines in recent days. On Monday, they processed 46 order in one day.
USFlags.com wrote today that “We have seen an unprecedented demand for Confederate Flags of all styles. At this time, we are out of stock on all Confederate items. If you still wish to place an order containing this item, a follow-up email will be sent when more information is available. Thank you for your patience and understanding!”
The End of the Confederate Flag 150 Years to the Day After the End of the Civil War.
BREAKING NEWS: The confederate flag has been removed from the flying above the State capitol in South Carolina. Well, not exactly breaking news: In fact, it was removed 14 years ago in 2001.
In 1962, the Confederate flag was first raised over the Statehouse to commemorate the Civil War centennial. It has been a source of controversy ever since, representing to many Blacks the very symbol of historical and present day racism and oppression.
But it wasn’t until 1999 that the national NAACP passed a boycott resolution and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference moved its annual 2000 convention from Charleston. The NAACP boycott began on Jan. 1, 2000. On Jan. 8, 2000, more than 6,000 flag supporters marched on the Statehouse. Nine days later, more than 45,000 flag opponents marched on the Statehouse. The following month, the South Carolina governor proposed moving the flag to an out-of-the-way monument, but the idea dies. And in April, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. marched 120 miles to Columbia in an anti-flag protest. The South Carolina Senate voted to take the flag down April 12 and the House agreed May 10, and a law was signed on May 23. The Senate removed its Confederate flag June 30, 2000 and the House did so on July 1.
The Confederate flag was lowered from the Statehouse, but immediately flag supporters raised the South Carolina Infantry Battle Flag on a 30-foot flagpole at the Confederate Soldier Monument directly in front of the Statehouse–and located on Statehouse grounds–where it remained as the focal point of the controversy, until last week, 14 years later.
On June 18, 2015 Gov. Nikki Haley ordered the state and U.S. flags at the Statehouse lowered to half-staff for nine days to honor the murdered church victims, but the Confederate flag was not lowered to half mast. Four days later, on June 22, Gov. Haley called for the flag to be removed from the Statehouse grounds.
“One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come,” she said, in an address that was broadcast live across America. That was 150 years to the day when the last shot was fired in the American civil war.
On June 23, 1865, Confederate General Stand Watie, an American Indian and head of the Choctaw Nation, in Oklahoma, surrendered to the Union army, marking the last shot fired between the Confederate States of America and the Union in the civil war, known as the War Between the States. The non-white General Stand Watie was the last Confederate general to surrender.
“For some it is a flag of oppression, however for many it is a flag that symbolizes a struggle for freedom over tyranny. The (same) kind of tyranny that lets mob rule take away rights from people who are not politically correct or don’t think like they do.” said John Nesbit, the co-owner of the Georgia based Ultimate Flags.com.
“Flags represent ideas, past and present. The way some people attack ideas they don’t like is to attack the symbols of that idea – such as its flags. Trying to re-write history by redefining words and symbols is the trick of a despotic and rotten mind. It has never been an effective form of argument. Every time someone proposes banning a flag, sales of that flag go through the roof. We have shipped more Confederate flags in the last few days than in all of this last year combined,” added Nesbit.
“Its been said that the first amendment that protects free speech is really there to protect unpopular speech, as popular speech needs no protection. At Ultimateflags.com we don’t just pay liberty lip service. we live it,” wrote Nesbit. “I put this little flag company here to make sure any American can get a hold of even ‘unpopular’ flags – especially flags that some people want to take away. We do this because we know that when any majority can suppress any minority and its ideas, that neither side is free. So, we do not participate in boycotts or bans of flags.”
The student government at University of California, Irvine voted to ban display of the American flag just last March. Student government member Matthew Guevara listed 25 reasons for the ban, among them that the American flag represented “colonialism and imperialism” and American “exceptionalism and superiority.” The student government resolution read “freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech.” The short lived ban caused a stir of national attention, before it was reversed.
“U.S. nationalism often contributes to racism and xenophobia, and that the paraphernalia of nationalism is in fact often used to intimidate,” said one supporter of the ban on flying the U.S. flag at the University of California.
“If the day comes that YOUR flag and ideas are ever under attack, you’ll know you can find the flag that has meaning for you boldly available here,” Nesbit writes, adding that his company is “half-minority owned… so figure that out you haters.”