WASHINGTON -- Jeremy Davis doesn't mind if people don't want to buy Confederate battle flags in the aftermath of last week's racially motivated mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The killings sparked a national debate over the Confederate flag, which still flies at the South Carolina Capitol building despite increasing calls for it to be taken down. Davis, who runs a flag company in Georgia called Southern Pride Fabrications, said Confederate flag sales have stayed flat amid the fuss.
"It's probably a good thing, because if sales of Confederate flags did go up because of this, that tells me a lot of people are using the flags for illicit reasons, flying it as a symbol of hate," he told The Huffington Post.
Reggie VandenBosch, vice president of sales for the Pennsylvania-based Valley Forge Flag and president of the Flag Manufacturers Association of America, called Confederate flags a "minuscule" part of the business.
"Personally, I can't remember ever selling one," VandenBosch said. "They're almost incidental, and I think that's true for any of the people that produce flags in the United States."
The flag trade association mostly focuses on promoting and properly labeling American-made flags. The group hasn't had a policy discussion about Confederate flags, though it probably will do so soon, VandenBosch said.
The Piedmont Flag Company in Maiden, North Carolina, makes Confederate flags mostly for Civil War re-enactors, TV shows and movies, according to company owner Tom Martin.
"Although the political use and political flags is an interesting subject, it is not our field of vexillology," Martin said in an email, referring to the scientific study of flag symbolism. "Our sales are not affected by misguided political debates."
Davis said he has seen political debates boost flag sales in the past. In 2001, when Georgia swapped out its official state flag for a new design that didn't prominently feature the Confederate battle design, a lot of people wanted to buy the outgoing flag.
Davis said he won't sell to avowed racists, recalling one incident about 10 years ago when he refused to sell to a KKK member in Indiana.
"He tried to order a flag and I flat-out refused his order," he said.
His customers are mostly groups like Sons of Confederate Veterans, of which he said he is a member. He opposes efforts to remove the flag in Columbia, South Carolina.
"We are the heirs to the Confederacy and we have a duty to protect and defend the integrity of the Confederate flag and the Confederate soldier," Davis said.
UPDATE: 6/23/15, 2:15 p.m. -- Overnight, sales of Confederate battle flags apparently surged at online retailers such as Amazon.com, Yahoo Finance reported Tuesday, thanks in part to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley calling on Monday for the flag to be removed from the state Capitol.
Walmart, eBay and Reggie VandenBosch said their companies would no longer sell the flag. Amazon announced Tuesday it will also stop selling the flag and related merchandise, according to several media reports.
"We have decided we’re not going to be participating in producing the Confederate battle flag anymore," VandenBosch told Yahoo on Tuesday. "There’s always been discomfort with it, and this tragedy is one of those sea change moments."
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