Old Glory Name Drives Flag Sales

The patriotic feeling sweeping the country since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the resulting display of U.S. flags have created a sales spike for cataloger and e-tailer Old Glory Distributing Co., even though the company's flag sales historically have been minimal.

Most of the company's sales are of merchandise with rock 'n' roll and entertainment themes. The flag doesn't even appear in the catalog, which contains more than 2,000 items. Nevertheless, customers have turned to Old Glory Distributing largely because its name is associated with Americans' affectionate name for the flag.

“We don't do that much in the way of flags in the traditional sense,” said Steve Schofield, marketing director at Old Glory Distributing, Westbrook, CT. “During the last three years, we sold maybe eight U.S. flags via mail order. That came primarily from people going through search engines and finding our Web site. But in the last couple of days, that has increased dramatically. We sold a few hundred in the last week.

“It's incredible and unprecedented,” he said. “Even during the Gulf War we didn't see movement like this.”

The company produces six catalogs annually with a combined circulation of 3 million. The Web site, www.oldglory.com, does sell a flag that measures 29-by-43 inches and costs $15.95. Other items on the site that contain images of the flag include shorts, hats, pins, T-shirts, candles and patches.

The Web site yesterday featured two T-shirts with one saying “Don't tread on me” in front of the flag and the other of a flag above the words from John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address of Jan. 20, 1961. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of these two shirts will be donated to the American Red Cross.

In a message posted on its Web site, the company expressed their sympathy for the victims of the attacks. “We believe that America and it's people will triumph over this tragic event, and that we, the people, will uphold the freedoms and values that “Old Glory” stands for.”

“We sold out on all of our flags that were in stock in two days following the attack,” he said. “That was probably 250 to 300 flags. For the last week, it's been about 30 [percent] or 40 percent of our business.”

As a result, the company is experiencing back-order problems.

“Every manufacturer in the U.S. is completely backed up,” he said. “We have them on order, and all they can tell us is they will get them out as soon as they can. We are also selling out on everything with the American flag on it. We're waiting on a shipment right now. Over the entire year it's still a small portion of our business, but this increase will definitely help. It's our most popular segment on the Internet.”

The company's next catalog drop will take place at the end of October. Not surprisingly, there will be a section containing U.S. flags and other merchandise with patriotic themes.

“I pushed the catalog drop back from its original date of Oct. 12 to about Oct. 24 because I had a whole bunch of samples that were supposed to arrive here,” he said. “A lot of them still haven't arrived because of the disruption of air shipments following the attack.”

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