But in recent years, Kmart, has not sold Kwanzaa items.

"Kmart last sold items in 2001," said Angela Hood, a spokeswoman for the retailer, based in Troy, Mich. "They did not do well, in terms of sales."

At Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., Kwanzaa items -- mostly cards and wrapping paper -- are sold at stores with higher concentrations of African-Americans, said spokeswoman Danette Thompson.

Thompson said she could not provide specific figures on Wal-Mart's Kwanzaa sales.

Customers also may request items, and buyers work to get those to them, Thompson said.

Hallmark, based in Kansas City, Mo., introduced its first Kwanzaa card in 1992. The company has offered a Kwanzaa line of cards and gift wrapping since 1993.

"We try to offer products for a diverse consumer base," said Deidre Parks, a Hallmark spokeswoman.

The privately held company does not disclose sales information, but Parks said how a product performs on the market is just one of many factors used to decide whether the company keeps it on the shelves.

"We evaluate every year and make a decision," she said.

'Support our own'

Stanley Butler, branch manager for Walbrook branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in West Baltimore, has celebrated Kwanzaa since the mid-1980s.

He said he doesn't disparage people who buy from other retailers because "at least they're celebrating Kwanzaa."

But, he added, "We should always strive to support our own."