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Hallmark pulls gift wrap after swastika complaint

Cheryl Shapiro displays the Hanukkah gift wrap with a swastika-like pattern she found at Walgreens in Northridge, Calif., Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. The wrapping paper has been recalled from stores nationwide.
Cheryl Shapiro displays the Hanukkah gift wrap with a swastika-like pattern she found at Walgreens in Northridge, Calif., Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. The wrapping paper has been recalled from stores nationwide. AP

A Walgreen’s customer in California saw a blue and silver roll of gift wrap that at first glance looked like Hannukah paper.

At second glance, she saw a swastika in the design.

Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards Inc., which licensed the wrapping paper rolls, heard about the problem Sunday night and alerted its retailers on Monday to remove the design from their shelves.

“We apologize for the oversight and apologize to anyone who was offended. That obviously was not our intent,” said Hallmark spokeswoman Julie Elliott. “It was an oversight on our part to not notice the intersecting lines that could be seen as a swastika pattern.”

Elliott said the gift wrap was created based on a design in the Hallmark archives that itself was based on an old Chinese vase. In some cultures, the interlocking lines were a symbol of good luck and prosperity, but it fell into mass disfavor after the Nazi regime used it.

Hallmark has licensed the design in different colors, and it was not intended to be gift wrap for Hannukah, Elliott said. She said it appeared that the Walgreen’s store in Northridge, Calif., where the woman complained, had put two rolls in its Hannukah display because of its blue and silver colors.

That store immediately removed the two rolls, and Walgreens, which distributed the product, has stopped its retailers from selling the design.

A story about the incident, first posted on the ABC News website, drew heavy comment, mostly from people who said the swastika was difficult to detect in the maze-like design and labeled it “much ado about nothing.”

But several companies, including a handbag manufacturer, Zara, have been tagged for marketing designs that include intersecting lines evoking the swastika. Zara, a Spanish company, was criticized again this year for marketing a striped T-shirt that had a gold star on it, reminiscent of clothing the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

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