TAMPA, Fla. – Local flag retailers aren't flying high this Fourth of July as concerns over high gas prices, job losses and the troubled economy are causing a dip in sales.
Tony Clayton, who operates Head's Flags with grandfather Floyd Head, estimates the number of walk-in retail customers at their store has dropped by about half compared with last year.
"We're doing OK, but not as good as previous years, that's for sure," Clayton, 36, said. "When you're putting a hundred dollars in your gas tank, it makes people conservative."
Shannon Winks, office manager at All American Flag and Pennant in Pinellas Park, has also noticed a decline in over-the-counter flag sales.
"It's probably the lowest I've seen it since I've been here," said Winks, who has worked for the business since 2002. "We haven't raised our prices. If anything, I've tried to give people deals."
Churches and other organizations are still renting bunting and other flags, but others have cut back, Clayton said. Real estate agents often buy flags in bulk to stick in the yards of houses for sale, but with the housing crisis, "nobody's buying a hundred at a time," he said.
Winks also says fewer car lots are buying American flags.
"Here we are in America, and we really need to be patriotic, especially in a time of war," she said. "The Fourth is when we shine."
Budget woes are also turning the lights out on fireworks shows across the state. Several cities, including Cocoa Beach, Winter Springs, New Smyrna Beach and Bonita Springs, have canceled their annual displays.
Bonita Springs cut their show because of city government budget cuts and a lack of sponsorship. The city is planning other festivities instead.
"We still have one of the best parades in Southwest Florida, and a great festival, too," Bonita Mayor Ben Nelson said.