UnNews:Retailers gearing up for Black History Month

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31 January 2007

Americans are urged to celebrate African-American culture by buying MP3 players.

NEW YORK--Business owners around the country are making last minute preparations for Black History Month, the buying spree that can make--or break--a retailer.

"Christmas was a downer, so Black History Month becomes that much more important to us," said GAP CEO Robert Fisher. "We know the country will join us in reflecting on how far we've come, how far we have to go, and how foolish it would be to pass up these fantastic deals."

"Look, 50 percent off selected polo shirts," Fisher added. "With those savings, not even Buddy Bolden could get the blues."

Black History Month, named for pulling retailers into the "black" for the first time in the year, brings the United States' rich African-American heritage together with sales specials. While only two percent of Americans will participate in cultural celebrations, 95 percent will mark the holiday with DVD purchases.

"Daniel Hale Williams, a black man, is widely credited with performing the first open heart surgery," say flyers for electronics retailer Best Buy. "Get $300 back when you open YOUR heart to a flat-screen TV."

Microsoft timed the release of its Vista operating system this week to coincide with the African-American shopping season. In the kick-off ceremony Tuesday, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the long-delayed product "resonated with the pain and determination of the black people of America."

"When Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery, she said, 'There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and I felt like I was in heaven,'" Gates said. "Vista will give you a window into the slave's experience."

Circuit City began airing a series of television ads this week featuring Malcolm X playing with his Wii. The author and leader urges black people to live with dignity and self-respect as he fights his way through The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess.

"I will slay this Darknut, by any means necessary," Malcolm X says in the advertisement.

A number of leaders have expressed concerns over the growing commercialization of Black History Month, with some calling for a boycott or a movement of the celebration to a less-frenzied month, like December.

"It is an insult to our heritage and to our ancestors to use this time to sell toys and games," said Rev. Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, earlier this week. "Black History Month is not about 'sales.' It is about replacing honest dialogue on race with incredibly useless trivia.

"A black guy invented the traffic signal," Butts added.

The National Retail Federation said Americans spent $1.2 billion last year during Black History Month. Roughly zero percent of that money went to black causes.