A friend told me to wait on buying furniture until Presidents’ Day Weekend. (February 18 – 20 this year.)
She says it’s the best time of the year for buying furniture.
Is Presidents’ Day really a good time to find bargains on furniture?
Your friend is correct!
In many parts of the U.S.:
Presidents’ Day Weekend is the Single Biggest Sales Weekend of the entire year.
Online furniture retailers also advertise heavily for the holiday.
This year, Presidents’ Day is on Monday, February 20.
Furniture retailers usually begin advertising their Presidents’ Day bargains at least one week prior to that date.
So you may be able to see Presidents’ Day Sales beginning as early as February 11.
You also asked, “Why is Presidents’ Day such a big time for furniture sales?”
The tradition of Presidents’ Day furniture sales started over 75 years ago.
Back then it was a Washington’s Birthday Sale. This was long before Presidents’ Day was created to combine Lincoln and Washington’s Birthdays into a single holiday.
Holiday sales events have always been a natural time for advertising furniture.
Going back 40 years and more, there were many thousands of small furniture retailers who could not afford to advertise every week.
Advertising was expensive. The internet did not exist, and the most effective form of advertising was through newspapers.
In a major metropolitan area, a full page newspaper ad could cost $10,000 or more. The cost for a half page was around $7500 and $500 for a quarter page.
This was a major expense at a time when most furniture stores had annual sales of less than $500,000 and many barely made a profit.
Furniture retailers concentrated their advertising dollars for huge holiday promotions.
Prior to the internet, a single good 3 day holiday weekend could bring in sales equivalent to a month or more of normal sales.
These annual holiday weekend sales included:
- Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day)
- Memorial Day
- July 4th
- Labor Day
- Thanksgiving (This is before Black Friday and Cyber Monday)
Christmas has always been a very weak furniture holiday. Easter is also a weak holiday for furniture.
When you look at this holiday calendar, there are two major gaps between the holidays.
The largest gap is from Presidents’ Day to Memorial Day.
The second largest gap is from Thanksgiving to Presidents’ Day.
These two holiday gaps, surrounding Presidents’ Day, are each at least 3 months long.
No other holiday gap exceeds 2 months.
This makes Presidents’ Day an extremely important time for furniture advertising.
Personal Presidents’ Day furniture anecdote –
In 1979, I was a buyer for the largest furniture store in the Washington DC region.
Washington’s Birthday Weekend was, by far, our largest of the year. That single weekend brought in nearly 10% of the store’s annual sales.
Multi-page newspaper ads were published each day over the entire week prior to the big Sale weekend.
Beginning on Friday night, snow began to fall. But it wasn’t the 8 inches predicted.
The snow storm turned into a full-fledged blizzard, with gale force winds and 22″ of snow. Nothing was moving on the roads.
The company owner was frantic. He called the advertising manager, who lived within walking distance of the store. According to the advertising manager the following conversation took place:
Owner: “Jud, You have to get the store opened!”
Advertising manager: “How do you propose I do that, Lou?”
Owner: “We hired a snowplow. Once they get the parking lot cleared out, customers will be able to come to the store.”
Advertising manager: “I don’t think anyone is going to be shopping, even if we do get the parking lot cleared. I don’t think any of the salespeople or office staff are going to be able to get here, either.”
Owner: “Get it cleared. Offer the employees $100 bonuses to come in.”
The advertising manger says OK, but calls back several minutes later: “The snowplow isn’t coming. They can’t get here.”
Owner: “Get out to the street and flag down the first snowplow that passes by. Wave a few hundred-dollar bills in front of his face, and he’ll go with you.”
Advertising manager: “Uh, Lou, Where do you expect me to get a few hundred dollar bills to wave around?”
The store did not open that weekend.
Most of the lost sales were made up over the next few weekends as a result of Washington’s Birthday Blizzard Sales.
But it required a huge additional advertising expense.
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