With World Cup fever peaking, flag stores in Austin have been selling out of the old red, white and blue. The oldest red, white and blue, in fact – the Dutch flag, in use since 1572.
Flag stores always stock up for the Fourth of July, says Michele Kronberg, the self-described “boss-queen” of Austin Flag and Flagpole on South First Street. “It’s our busiest time of the year,” she says. “We don’t really have a Christmas season.” But exploding demand for foreign flags, driven by the World Cup, caught her off guard.
“We’ve sold five or six of each country in the last couple weeks,” Kronberg says, “whereas we normally sell maybe one a month.”
The store's top sellers include the usual tournament heavyweights like Germany, Italy and Brazil. The Mexican flag has been moving too.
“Germany, Mexico … we always keep those in stock,” Kronberg says. “But the Netherlands – we sold out. I wasn’t ready for that one.”
At Lady Liberty Flag & Flagpole, on William Cannon Drive, the Brazilian flag has been the best seller, with the Dutch flag coming in second. The Austin area has fewer than 10,000 people reporting Dutch ancestry, according to the latest census, but the Netherlands is a traditionally strong power in the World Cup.
“I sold some Costa Ricas when that game was coming up, a couple Greece,” says part-owner and office manager Sandra Merritt. “I get 20 to 30 percent more on U.S. flags this time of year,” she says. “I’m seeing maybe 15 percent more on foreign flags than what I usually sell.”
But at the Flag Store of Hyde Park, customers of all stripes seem a little less patriotic: Owner Tony Hooman says he hasn’t seen a jump in flag sales at all, foreign or domestic.
“I kind of expected more,” Hooman says. “I guess people get them online nowadays.”
Sandra Merritt has her own theory. “People don’t buy from small businesses,” she says. “They buy from Walmart. And most of those aren’t made in America.”
Walmart declined to share sales data for the stars and stripes. But spokeswoman Debbie Serr wanted us to know that in 2014, Walmart will sell enough soccer balls to give nearly 50 to every citizen of Nacogdoches, Texas – hometown of USA Team Captain Clint Dempsey.
Team USA faces off against Belgium this afternoon.