The Stars and Stripes puts U.S. in the red

The U.S. imports more flags -- mostly from China -- than it sells abroad. Coincidence or not, flag exports have fallen since the financial crisis.

Jeff Horwich: Not surprisingly, Independence Day is a big reason for sales of American flags.

But when it comes to sales of red white and blue, we're actually in the red. Here's Marketplace's Stacey Vanek Smith.


Stacey Vanek Smith: The U.S. is running a flag deficit. We exported about $660,000 worth of U.S. flags last year, but we imported more than $3.5 million worth of flags, mostly from China.

Mary Repke: Consumers do mind and they're very vocal about it. It will be on Facebook so fast.

That's Mary Repke of Annin Flagmaker, the biggest flagmaker in the U.S. The company's been making flags...

Repke: Since 1847.

Sales of American made flag far out-stripe Chinese imports. Repke says since 9/11, Americans have bought more homespun flags. Annin's sales are up about 10 percent this year. Repke says the bad economy has been good for business.

Repke: The impact of the recession makes everybody much more aware of domestically produced things and especially the flag.

Repke says presidential elections always mean a banner year for flag sales, like the miniature stick flags that get handed out at political rallies. Those flags cost about 80 cents a piece and Annin expects to sell more than 10 million of those this year -- including some for export.

In New York, I'm Stacey Vanek Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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