When Desert Storm started, people started working extra shifts at the Valley Forge Flag Co., in New York. But until recently, in Utah, it's been hard to find a flag to wave.
"We've been limited as to how much material is available, dyed and finished," says Michael Liberman, president of Valley Forge. "Our stripes are cut and hand-sewn. There's no way we can make flags at the rate our customers are ordering them."The Deseret News buys flags wholesale from Valley Forge. Keith West, community relations director, says the newspaper sells flags at cost as a public service. For weeks, he says, the Deseret News had no flags to sell. But a shipment just arrived.
It's the same story at Modern Display, in Salt Lake City. Shane Atkin, assistant manager, recently got the first shipment of flags he's had in several months. Modern Display buys from Dettra Flag Co. in Pennsylvania.
The flags he had in stock in January might have lasted through June, Atkin says. Except for the war. "We sold out a week and a half after it started."
Patriotism is hard to predict, Liber-man said. Pride rises and falls quite independently from economic indicators.
"People say to me, `You knew this war was coming last August,' " as if he should have started sewing more flags then.
However, as Liberman recalls, no one was sure that we would go to war until we actually did. And who could have known Americans would want to fly, wave and wear so many stars and stripes?
Atkin, too, finds the patriotic buyer a bit hard to predict. "Red, white and blue ribbon is selling close to average. But yellow ribbon is getting out of hand."
Though sales have quadrupled, he has been able to keep yellow ribbon in stock, says Atkin. "We are getting it from six different suppliers, in plastic and satin, in all widths - up to 20 inches wide. That's the size you need to wrap around buildings."
We might not see them waving in the breeze, or tied around trees, but lacy garter belts are selling better because of the war, too, according to Ellen Appel, public relations spokeswoman for Frederick's Of Hollywood.
Sales at Frederick's Utah store, in Crossroads Mall, were up 75 percent for the second week in March compared to one year ago, she says.
"I can't give out the dollar amount," she adds. Appel says returning soldiers are a boon to the lingerie business. "In some cities right after President Bush announced the troop withdrawal, we started seeing some very dramatic increases."
A manager at Crossroad's Victoria's Secret says she hasn't seen any huge increase in sales since the war ended and doubts it has a significant effect on lingerie sales in Utah.
Michael Liberman, on the other hand, has no doubt about the effect Desert Storm had on the flag business. A bad effect.
"In the long run it may be good for business. Right now, though, we have nothing but unhappy customers."
People are digging through attics and basements for old flags, he says.
In Sandy, Carol Pater welcomed her husband, John, home last Sunday to a street full of flags. Neighborhood Boy Scouts came up with 60 flags and posted them in every yard on the block. "Some of them are looking kind of ragged," she says.