Several seasonal product lines were discontinued prior to the 2022 holiday season, including Mardi Gras, Halloween and Hanukkah, all based on "customer interest," "what sells well" and "the need to find additional space" in stores, according to a statement read to Snopes.com by one of the company's corporate customer service employees.
In early November 2023, a rumor circulated in Facebook posts that claimed the American arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby – a company with Christian owners and a website that mentions they're "committed to" following "Biblical principles" – had discontinued offering seasonal merchandise for the eight-day Hanukkah holiday, also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights.
"Bye bye Hobby Lobby!! You will never get another dollar from me!," one Facebook user posted, in response to the rumor.
"Hobby Lobby has stopped selling any Hanukkah items. Not only boycott them but flood them with emails and messages [of] what you think of them," another person wrote.
Other users accused the company of antisemitism.
In one user's post, a screenshot was included that showed an email message that she said she had received from a Hobby Lobby customer service employee on Nov. 10. She added to her post, "Definitely will never step foot in their store again, and hope that many of you will not either."
By phone, a corporate customer service employee for Hobby Lobby read off to Snopes the same statement that had appeared in the Facebook user's email message. That statement read as follows:
The decision on what to offer our customers are based on many factors, including customer interest and what sells well. Our seasonal merchandise assortment carried at Hobby Lobby is constantly changing, and they evaluate it annually. Due to the need to find additional space for some of our stronger categories as well as our newer ones, the decision was made over the last couple of years to discontinue several seasonal product lines, including Mardi Gras, Halloween and Hanukkah.
The corporate customer service employee also told us that the decision to discontinue some of its seasonal product lines was made before Christmas in the year 2022. In other words, the discontinuation of Hanukkah merchandise was not a new development in November 2023, according to the employee.
We reached out by phone and email to media relations personnel with Hobby Lobby to find out if it had statement for members of the press that was different than the one being provided to customers. This story will be updated if we receive a response.
We also placed calls to nine Hobby Lobby stores in New Jersey and New York. Employees for all nine stores told us that they had no Hanukkah merchandise in stock.
The only two products on the company's website that appeared in results for a search of the Hanukkah holiday were two calendar bulletin board sets. The calendar sets mentioned Hanukkah but were not specifically themed on the holiday.
The Alleged 'You People' Remark from 2013
Hobby Lobby's decision to either offer or not offer Hanukkah merchandise is a topic that has a bit of history to it.
In early October 2013, the company found itself embroiled in a controversy over an alleged remark from a Hobby Lobby employee.
According to a blog post that was made on the Hopelessly Partisan blog on Sept. 27, 2013, an employee at the company's Marlboro, New Jersey store had allegedly responded to a customer who had asked about the availability of Hanukkah merchandise with the answer, "We don't cater to you people." The alleged incident was apparently not recorded on audio or video.
The news of the alleged employee remark led to a public apology from Hobby Lobby's president, Steve Green. His full statement was reposted on the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) website, which was followed by the ADL accepting his apology.
Green's statement read as follows:
“We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby.
Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We're proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States.
We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination.
We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”
On the same day that the ADL posted Green's apology, Hobby Lobby announced in a Facebook post that it would "begin offering Jewish holiday items in a number of stores to test the market in New York and New Jersey."
The company continued its response to the situation involving the alleged "you people" remark by replying to users who commented under the post.
For example, one user named Angelia commented, "Too late. Your true colors have been shown." The company replied as follows:
We understand your skepticism Angelia, but our apology and actions are sincere. The comments allegedly made by one of our employees do not reflect the views of the Green family or our more than 25,000 employees. We have a deep respect for those in the Jewish faith, as well as the traditions they hold dear. We're excited to offer Jewish holiday items in the region where we've seen such overwhelming demand and we'll continue to evaluate our holiday stock going forward as additional demand arises.
In another reply, the company told a user, in part, "We absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or in our stores. We are reiterating this policy with our employees this week."
For further reading, in 2017, we reported about a very similar rumor that also claimed Hobby Lobby did not sell any Jewish holiday items at its stores. We also recommend to our readers the reporting from The Associated Press that provided details about the time that the Green family won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2014, and separately, the time that Steve Green relinquished smuggled archaeological artifacts that authorities said had been looted from Iraq.