CafePress bans Confederate flag products on its e-commerce site
June 24, 2015 03:52 PM
Count CafePress among the growing number of retailers removing Confederate flags and other Confederate-themed products from their e-commerce sites and stores in the wake of consumer complaints after the racially motivated shooting deaths last week of nine members of a historic black church in South Carolina.
But Dixie Outiftters, a small family-owned apparel retailer in Odum, Ga., isn’t part of that group. Owner Dewey Barber said Wednesday that online sales and web traffic at his “Southern Heritage Store” have jumped 500% in the past few days, though he wouldn’t give numbers. In addition to its online store, which Barber says he has operated for more than 20 years, Dixie Outfitters, founded in 1985, also has franchise stores across the South.
Customized gift e-retailer CafePress, No. 140 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, had Confederate flag products on its website as of Tuesday, but said it will be removing them. CafePress, according to a statement from a spokeswoman, “has decided to amend its Content Usage Policy and will now classify use of the Confederate flag as hateful speech. As such, we will be removing all products featuring the Confederate flag from our marketplace. Use of the Confederate flag in any manner is now in clear violation of our content policies.”
Wal-mart Stores Inc. (No. 3), Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 5), and eBay have said they will no longer sell Confederate-themed merchandise on their e-commerce sites or in stores. Amazon.com (No. 1), is said to be halting sales of such products, according to Bloomberg News, but Amazon has not confirmed that decision. Target Corp. removed the one Confederate-themed item, a costume, that was on its site, and a Google Inc. spokeswoman said the search giant will remove content containing the Confederate flag from its Google Shopping and ads. Alibaba Group Holding, China’s dominant e-commerce company, also followed suit, saying it will remove listings for flags, clothing and other memorabilia using the imagery to meet its policy of prohibiting materials that are ethnically or racially offensive. Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace has items including key rings and belt buckles for sale using the flag image.
At DixieOutfitters.com, which states “Preserving Southern Heritage Since 1861,” T-shirts have the Confederate flag in many designs, including a cross, a monster truck, deer, daisies and puppies. There also are dozens of other products—blankets, cell phone covers, socks—on the site. The artwork and most of the manufacturing is done onsite by Barber’s 20 employees. The e-commerce site also is run in-house. “We have our servers here, and we have a webmaster who does all of our coding. We don’t farm it out. We’ve been able to manage the traffic; we’ve never had a surge that’s overwhelmed us,” Barber says.
He’s considering an increase in his online advertising in coming days, perhaps trying to use Google AdWords again, though Google says it will remove Confederate flag items, and listing more products on eBay, despite the online marketplace stating that it would remove Confederate flags and related products. “They said they’re not going to carry it, but they do. It’s all over eBay. We don’t normally advertise on eBay but we probably will because of the demand,” he says.
EBay has said it will block new listings as of Tuesday and begin to notify sellers who have current listings that are affected, and then will start to remove current listings, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Even if Barber can’t boost his advertising or product listings elsewhere, plenty of consumers already have found Dixie Outfitters. Barber, who has dealt with Confederate flag controversy before, defends his business and says it’s more than a money-making venture, citing the retailer’s mission statement and online store sections entitled “Heritage News” and “The Southern Experience.”
“We’re different than Amazon or Kmart or eBay, just doing it for profit,” he says. “It’s not all about money for us. We’re doing the right thing. We want to educate people who don’t understand the nuances of the flag. It was a soldier’s flag, not a flag of the Confederate government.”