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A day to spend dead presidents?

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BOB MOON: Get them while they’re hot at today’s big sales. This is, after all, President’s Day, so we wondered just where this day ranks for the world of retail. Marshall Cohen is chief analyst for the research firm NPD Group. He tells us this isn’t the big sales day it used to be.

MARSHALL COHEN: Years ago it really was one of the few times where the retailers could use this holiday as a time to try to lure customers in for clearance time, but over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot less retailers really try to use this card, because they got so focused on January and so focused on bringing spring merchandise forward in the month of February, that a lot of the retailers pushed their big clearance month ahead of time, so there are just a few businesses that really still play the President’s Day card from a commercial standpoint.

MOON: When can it be effective for a retailer to use this day?

COHEN: Well this really becomes something when you are trying to market as a special. You know, when you look at the auto industry, they’re, you know, almost every dealer now is talking about President’s Day, today, as being a really great time to buy a car. You know, the deals aren’t that much different than what you would find any other month, but they use the name as a lure to try to drive it in, to try to get the excitement built up.

MOON: Well I think we all know, you know, days around Thanksgiving are really big, Black Friday you’ve got, or the following Monday, Cyber Monday really important to retailers. How does this rank, compared to that, for example?

COHEN: Years ago this would have been in the top 10. Now it really basically is probably not even in the 10 to 20 number. It almost has gone from being a very important day, to a vacation day, and on vacation that’s not really what’s necessarily going to drive traffic into the stores. Some of the industries that have really held on to this, businesses like the mattress business, the auto industry and in some cases you’ll find some fashion retailers using it, when business is tough they’ll roll out the President’s Day special. Today we have some retailers that are actually trying to do that and that really is a sign that shows me that they’re really just having a tougher time clearing some of their older merchandise than they have had as they would expect.

MOON: I wonder why do certain industries identify with this day?

COHEN: Well it really has everything to do with the competition. You don’t want somebody in the industry that hasn’t left President’s Day from a marketing opportunity, to be the only one out there doing it, so they’re busy and you’re not. So the industries tend to compete with each other. The other key here is to recognize, when you look at the industries that are really using President’s Day, this is merchandise that doesn’t really change a lot. A car is a car for the year, and in some cases even for two or three. A mattress, it’s the same mattress all year round, sometimes even for several years, so those are the industries that rely on these, you know, manufactured holidays, to take advantage of it because they really don’t have the obsolescence of product at the same degree that some of the other industries have.

MOON: How do you think George or Abe would feel about their day being associated with selling a mattress?

COHEN: Well when you think about it, these two guys just got short-sighted because they, you know, basically each had their own holiday, and now they’re sharing one that isn’t even on their day. So in the first place, I’m sure they’re sitting there saying, hey first you know you took me and now you changed the money on me, and now you’re going to take my birthdays away and change that. You know, the answer probably is they would look at it much like a lot of things that we’ve done with holidays and commercialized it, and probably sit there and say it wasn’t quite the concept that they had in mind from the get-go.

MOON: Marshall Cohen is chief analyst for NPD Group. Thanks for joining us and enjoy the holiday.

COHEN: My pleasure and same to you.

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