US flag sales rise in Michigan, as national trend falls
When Billie Evitts moved into her Dearborn home two years ago, hanging a flag outside her house was among the first decorating her family did.
"My husband put it up the second day we were there," she said. "I'm proud to be American. These days, some people seem like they're offended by the flag, but we are in America, so I don't think there's any reason to not have the flag out."
Evitts' brother recently returned home from the Army, and her sister also previously served: "I'm proud of them, and I'm thankful for members of the military so that we can live the way we do."
More Michiganians have joined Evitts this year in showing their patriotic spirit by flying the star-spangled banner, according to flag shops in the state.
A recent Rasmussen poll reported 85 percent of American adults said they are proud of their nation and its past, a result similar to previous years. National U.S. flag sales, according to Reggie VandenBosch, a board member of the Flag Manufacturers Association of America, appear to be flat this year. With wholesale totals at about $300 million, flag sales are behind the 5 to 6 percent growth the industry has seen over the past five years.
But not in Michigan. Although a recent WalletHub study ranked the Great Lakes state as No. 43 in patriotism, stores that sell U.S. flags said sales were on track or doing better than recent years — some by as much as 50 percent.
Michelle Racknor, office manager at Better Buy Flag in Lapeer, said the store typically sees 800 flag sales annually. This year, they are up to 1,500.
"More or less, people don't want to have a poor-looking flag," Racknor said. "They want one that looks great, because it's representing their country."
The increase comes during a mid-term election year, which includes a governor's race in Michigan, as well as a politically contentious time in American politics. As President Donald Trump touts an "America First" agenda, his tariff proposals and immigration policies have drawn fervent debate.
Jane Miles, owner of the 101-year-old American Flag & Banner shop in Clawson, said she has sold a third more stock this year than the 12,000 flags she sells annually on average. She said most of her customers are Republicans.
Respect for the flag "wasn’t played to the public as much as last year," Miles said. "Trump always has eight or 12 behind him. It's more of a show of patriotism. Even the slogan 'Make America Great Again,' it tends to value the flag and patriotism."
Trump supporters, said Rich Keenan, owner of Canton's Old Glory Flag and Flagpoles, are more vocal when they make their purchase: "A lot of the Trump people are very patriotic; they’re very pro-flying the flag. The other ones, they don’t really talk politics. They just want to fly the flag."
Keenan said he saw a 50 percent increase in sales over Memorial Day weekend. Since then, he noted, business has slowed.
Politics may not be the only reason sales have increased. Racknor at Better Buy Flag suggested that recent economic growth has given people more disposable income.
Tim Mohney, owner of Flags Unlimited Ltd. in Grand Rapids, agreed. Selling thousands of flags each year of all sizes, Flags Unlimited has seen a 5 percent increase in sales over previous years.
"It's more of the bigger-ticket items," he said. "People are stepping up and spending more money than buying the cheapest ones. If it’s more political, we would see our low-end stuff selling faster."
After 9/11, a rise in patriotic spirit among Americans wiped Mohney's shelves clean. He had difficulty ordering stock. Some people bought French flags, because they were red, white and blue. That is not the case this year.
For years, Stella Marlett of Dearborn Heights has flown a flag in front of her house. Five years ago, she and her husband upgraded; they installed a flagpole on their property.
"I'm proud of where we live, but it's hard," she said. "It's so much harder with the way the world is going."
Still Marlett said she thinks everyone should fly a flag: "It's about freedom. We're united in that."
Warren-based Art Van Furniture is offering to replace worn and tattered flags with new ones at no cost. Over Memorial Day weekend, the company replaced nearly 10,000 U.S. flags, more than double that of last year. It is collecting flags for Independence Day through July 9 and will do so again for Labor Day.
"I’m thrilled that Midwesterners are proud to fly the flag," said Diane Charles, Art Van vice president of corporate communications. "I'm glad Art Van can help beautify their home."
VandenBosch of FMAA said a number of factors contribute to flag sales, including economics, politics and the prevalence of flags in a person's neighborhood. Ultimately, he said, display of the flag is about celebrating American freedom, honoring military members and taking pride in the country.
"Hopefully it's bigger than one party," he said. "I know it is for me."