It seems as though the annual Columbus Day Sales promotion has finally run its course. Retailers have largely abandoned the event. Once a profit generator for department stores and downtown shopping districts, the Columbus Day Sale has become a liability.
The depiction of an explorer who enslaved and brutalized native inhabitants of the West Indies brought Columbus front and center during recent demonstrations. Many no longer celebrate Columbus as a skilled navigator and the discoverer of America.
The controversy behind Columbus Day is nothing new and has been brewing for several decades. But after a year that included calls for social reform, the removal of statues and monuments, and retail sales declines and closures, 2020 became the year to retire the Columbus Day Sale.
Last October, Belk, the Charlotte-based department store company, held its annual Columbus Day Sale but its sale circulars did not feature the promotion’s name in bold print. Belk has abandoned the annual event completely this year. At Belk, it’s now the “Feeling Fall Sale.”
By the late 1970s, the Columbus Day Sale transitioned from a clothing sale to a home improvement promotion. Home Depot, Lowe’s
However, “Rooms To Go” has elected to hold a Columbus Day Sale this year. The retailer operates over 150 furniture stores throughout the southeastern United States, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Janis Altshuler, Senior Vice President at Rooms To Go, says, “Rooms To Go opted to keep Columbus Day as the name for the event because that is the federal name of the holiday and we wanted to avoid confusion. This certainly will be considered in the future and no decision has been made for 2021.”
Altshuler explains why it remains an important sale for furniture retailers. “Traditionally, federal holidays, especially those that turn into 3-day weekends, make for good furniture shopping times for consumers. Since furniture is a considered a large purchase, it is advantageous to have multiple family members be able to shop together and having Monday off extends that opportunity.”
In recent years, department stores, once the cornerstone for the annual event, have steadily abandoned the Columbus Day Sale name. Dillard’s eliminated the annual promotion in 2009. Macy’s did likewise in 2017.
The Columbus Day Sale had little purpose other than to be an October promotion. The year’s sales trends often dictated the nature of the sale. Retailers used it as a clearance event for summer stock when back-to-school figures