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SALES PETER OUT ON GULF WAR NOVELTIES

Interest in gulf war novelty items and paraphernalia is in full retreat.

From yellow ribbons and military trading cards to T-shirts and commercially printed welcome-home banners, mass-market items produced to cash in on patriotic fervor and support for the Desert Storm troops are no longer a hot ticket.War-related items - many marked down 50 percent to 75 percent - have moved from the front racks to the corners of Salt Lake stores.

Only Old Glory continues to wave proudly in the battle for consumer dollars. Flags are still selling briskly.

Shane Atkin, assistant manager of Modern Display, 422 S. 700 East, a major supplier of flags in the Salt Lake area, said that when a flag shipment came in last month, Modern Display sold 75 flags in one day, mostly the popular $30 nylon flag, which measures 3 feet by 5 feet.

But demand for war-related merchandise has cooled. "The public doesn't care any more," commented a clerk in Topkapi, a Cottonwood Mall boutique selling jewelry, hair ribbons and other accessories. "The theory was that they'd be good as souvenirs, but they're not."

She was referring to the nearby flag hair clips and yellow-ribbon earrings sporting 50 percent-off tags. Peace symbol necklaces, however, weren't on sale.

Across the corridor, a giant American flag hung in Woolworth's window. Inside, the price tags on 20-inches-by-5-feet welcome-home banners had been slashed, from $4.99 to $2.50 The price of yellow-ribbon hair bows had dropped from $1.99 to 75 cents. "It's pretty slow," admitted Woolworth's manager for the sales of Desert Storm paraphernalia. "Hopefully, this stuff will sell for the Fourth of July."

At Coach House Gifts in the downtown ZCMI Center, prices have been slashed on everything from T-shirts, marked down from $9.99 to $2.99, to flag pins. The store still offers a yard of yellow ribbon with each patriotic sale.

"Will you take a cautious diplomatic approach or be forced to launch an attack using the full extent of your arsenal?" blares the promotion on the Desert Storm game, "A Line in the Sand." Like the Scuds, the game is a dud. The $29.99 game is gathering dust on the ZCMI Toy Department shelf even though it's been marked down to $19.99 for several months.

Slow sales also have forced ZCMI to drop prices on its military trading cards. Local card shops also report interest has cooled on the baseball-style trading cards. (See related story).

"Right now everybody is interested in Ty Detmer (cards)," said Steve Mitchell of House of Cards and Coins, 457 E. 3300 South.

Added Sherry Heaton of Coins and Collectables, 5710 S. Redwood Road: "I still have people trading them (military cards), but they aren't buying them as much as they did halfway through the war. People come in from the Tooele Army Depot every day to trade cards."

The House of Tees in Crossroads Plaza no longer gets requests for Desert Storm iron-on transfers such as "I'd fly 10,000 miles to smoke a camel," a slogan superimposed on an outline of Iraq.

During the war, manager Julie Sinnett said she daily sold four dozen transfers for T-shirts and caps. There was even a waiting list. Now the most popular transfers are again those promoting Utah, its mountains and skiing.

A wartime commodity once in short supply is plentiful at area craft stores. The Lace Place, Zim's, Modern Display and Utah Craft and Floral report they have enough yellow ribbon to tie around scores of oak trees.

While a ceasefire has been called on marketing of gulf war items on most retail fronts, book publishers won't launch their major onslaught until fall. That's when more in-depth and definitive works will replace the largely pictorial Desert Storm books now found in bookstores, said Kim Kirchgasler, manager of B Dalton Bookseller in the Cottonwood Mall.