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Walmart Removes Controversial Display That Marketed Guns as 'Back-to-School' Items

International Business Times logo International Business Times 8/10/2017 Shubham Kishore

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Walmart landed in a controversy Thursday when a picture taken at one of its stores went viral on social media. In the picture, a sign with the tagline, "Own the school year like a hero," was seen displayed above a gun rack. It appeared the guns were being marketed as "Back to School" items.  

A twitter user, Ismail Kidd Noorazi, first posted the picture that sparked outrage. Many Twitter users then started asking the retail giant for an explanation.  Responding to the tweets, the retail giant apologized and informed the sign was removed. 

In one of its tweets, Walmart said the sign was found in the store number-1341, however, it did not confirm the location of the store. A report claimed the store was in Evansville, Indiana.

However, in another Tweet, the retail giant said the company confirmed with the shop manager, who said there was no such sign near the guns.

Twitter users alleged such a behavior was adding fuel to the already existing problem of gun violence in the United States.

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Under the "Back to School" banner, Walmart sells products like backpacks, lunchboxes, binders, glue sticks, crayons and other such essentials. In an advertisement with the tagline "Own the school like a hero," the retail giant promotes products linked with superheroes.

And this is not the first time that Walmart has landed in such a controversy. In July, Walmart apologized after facing criticism online for using a racial slur in a product listing on its website. The company claimed the product was listed by a third party seller, and also mentioned it was upset with the use of such a word on its website and it had removed the unidentified seller completely from its site. 

"We are very sorry and appalled that this third party seller listed their item with this description on our online marketplace," Danit Marquardt, Director, Corporate Communications & Media Relations, Walmart, said. "It is a clear violation of our policy, and has been removed, and we are investigating the seller to determine how this could have happened." 

 In September, a Walmart  store in Panama City Beach stacked up Coca-cola bottles to make them look like World Trade Center, with a message that read: “ We will never forget."  While the gesture aimed at commemorating the 9/11 attacks, social media users criticized the company for using the opportunity for branding.

In October 2014, the store apologized for labeling a cloth category for adult plus size Halloween outfits, “Fat Girl Costumes.” After facing social media backlash, the firm's spokesperson came out with a statement saying, “This should never have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again,” according to reports

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In 2015, Walmart, along with other retailers like Amazon and eBay, banned the sale of Confederate flag merchandise. The step was taken after the flag became a sore point in the aftermath of a shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston.

Several other retailers have apologized in the past and removed controversial products from their shops and websites. While Amazon had to remove a doormat with the picture of Indian flag, Nike offered an explanation for using an offensive name for its range of sneakers. The retailer selling athletic footwear, apparel and accessories had named the range of shoes “Zenji.” Many social media users said it was a derogatory term in Arabic for people from Zanzibar.

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