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 the outrage. Many Twitter users then started asking the retail giant for an explanation. Responding to the tweets, Walmart apologized and informed the sign has been removed.
In one of its tweets, Walmart said the sign was found at the store number-1341, however, it did not confirm the location of the store. A report claimed the store was in Evansville, Indiana.
But in another Tweet, the retailer said the store manager confirmed there was no such sign placed above the gun rack.
A Twitter user said such actions would promote violence in schools.
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 meant for school kids linked with superheroes.
This is not the first time that the retail giant 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 the 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, “Fat Girl Costumes.” After facing social media backlash, the firm's spokesperson issued 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.
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 the Indian flag, Nike offered an explanation for using an offensive name for a range of sports shoes. 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.