Hobby Lobby, the fast-growing U.S. crafts chain, is re-evaluating its merchandise strategy in the wake of a report that claims the chain refused to stock Hanukkah goods due to its founder's "Christian values."
A customer at a Hobby Lobby store in Marlboro, N.J., was recently told "We don't cater to you people," when she asked a sales associate if the store would be stocking any Hanukkah merchandise, according to Ken Berwitz, a Marlboro resident who first reported the story on his blog. Following up with Hobby Lobby's corporate headquarters, Berwitz found that the chain would not carry Hanukkah items due to founder David Green’s Christian faith. "Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he's a Christian, and those are his values," he claims he was told.
A company spokesperson offered the following statement to Entrepreneur.com today:
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection. Due to multiple customer requests, we are currently evaluating our Holiday items and what we will carry in the future.
Alleged comments made by employees are currently being investigated and will be addressed accordingly. These comments are in no way indicative of Hobby Lobby culture, the owners and the operators.
Marlboro is a great city and has wonderful people and we are blessed to be apart the community.
The Oklahoma-based company states on its website that the company is committed to “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” In accordance with this commitment, its stores are closed on Sunday, a practice shared with businesses such as Chick-fil-A, to allow employees "time for worship and family."
However, many feel that Hobby Lobby’s refusal to stock crafts linked to Hanukkah or other non-Christian religious holidays is not "serving the Lord," but purposely excluding potential shoppers. “Those aren’t Christian values,” says Berwitz. “Those are David Green values.”
While Hobby Lobby explains its Christian values on its website, the store brands itself as a general arts and crafts store. The chain has been swiftly growing, with 561 stores in 45 states. Its store in Marlboro, N.J., a town with a significant Jewish population, opened this past summer.
Hobby Lobby's competitors include Michaels, which carries several Hanukkah-themed items, and The Christmas Tree Shops, which despite its name, also sells a range of Hanukkah goods.
Separately, Hobby Lobby has been in the news for challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that the company provide birth control coverage to its employees. Hobby Lobby argues that it and its sister company, a Christian bookstore, should be exempt from the requirement for religious reasons.
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