Even though it's only the second time in U.S. history that Inauguration Day converged with the national Martin Luther King holiday, the rare occasion was strangely unnoticed and unexploited by the U.S. retail industry. It's possibly the first time in U.S. history that the retail industry has missed an opportunity to capitalize on the commercialization of a holiday, either real or fabricated. That's not a completely fact-checked statement, but from a consumer's perspective it certainly seems to be true.
Best Buy (BBY) is focusing its marketing promotion efforts today on SuperBowl TV sales. Sears (SHLD) is as well, along with clearing out post-Christmas clothing inventory with discounts up to 75% off. Target (TGT) is promoting Valentine's Day merchandise already. Macy's (M) is running a generic Super Weekend Clearance and 2-Day specials, without any attempt to connect the sale to either the Martin Luther King holiday or the Inauguration.
The relatively small Zazzle.com website wins the prize for Inauguration-related merchandise with its selection of 640 Inauguration memorabilia items from $120 First Family pillows to $43 Inauguration belt buckles to a $38 Inauguration coin purse, to $1 postcards. You can even buy a Mitt Romney Inauguration phone cover for $53.95 at Zazzle, if you'd like to live in delusion and denial for the next four years.
In contrast, 2009 Inauguration-themed deals and discounts were offered by an abundance of nonpartisan retail stores and restaurants. Amazon.com (AMZN) gathered all merchandise even remotely related to the Inauguration into one cyber boutique for the 2009 Inauguration. Krispy Kreme (KKD) gave free donuts to everyone who walked in the door. Bliss Spas ran a "Goodbye to Bush" Brazlian waxing special. Starbucks (SBUX) gave free coffee in exchange for community service.
In 2013 the marketing departments at the largest U.S. retail companies seemingly forgot to look at the calendar. Oops.
Even Google, which morphs its logo to commemorate the birthday of the most obscure scientists and the anniversaries of unnoted historical events didn't take the occasion to acknowledge the rare overlap between Martin Luther King Day and the presidential inauguration. That alone should have warranted a Google doodle, not to mention the fact that the president being sworn in today is symbolic of everything we're supposed to be commemorating on Martin Luther King Day. It's a very strange missed opportunity in Google doodle history.
Of course we're not really sure where Google stands these days in its support of the Democratic party because we're not really sure lately how Google spends its political campaign money or even how much it is spending. Google is one of the biggest U.S. corporations that's been identified as having the most secret and least accountable political spending. The reason for the secrecy might be the reason behind the doodless day.
We expect a defiant snub of the 2013 Inauguration day from Wal-Mart (WMT), a retailer that calls company meetings ito "influence" employee votes for Republican candidates. We're not surprised that Home Depot is not running a Rebuild America MLK Inauguration Sale after its co-founder Ken Langone made no secret about peddling his influence in corporate America to raise funds for the Romney campaign. After it filed a healthcare-related lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we didn't expect Hobby Lobby to stage Inauguration-themed craft classes in its stores today.
But even the most ardent and vocal retail industry supporters of the Democratic party - Starbucks, Costco, Whole Foods - have all left the MLK Inauguration Convergence Day unacknowledged. There's not even a national ice cream special or giveaway from the most liberal of the liberal retail organizations, Ben & Jerry's.
Granted, founder Ben Cohen has been leading a campaign to change the laws regarding corporate contributions to political campaigns by stamping political messages onto paper currency. This is a timely campaign that is somewhat aligned with MLK Inauguration Day, but some kind of I Have a Cream InOranguration limited edition flavor would have been nice too.
Perhaps this Inauguration inaction is just a common second-term phenomenon. Perhaps this is another example of how everybody loses in a political system of unlimited, unmonitored, and unaccountable corporate political spending that created one of the longest, most intense, and ugliest political campaigns seasons in recent U.S. history. Perhaps the price for the peaceful transfer of power in 21st century democracy is the unpeaceful residual anxiety, fear, and despair that is created by a corporately polluted political process. Perhaps sensational media bombardment has created such extreme polarity that we will never again see the kind of "unity" that President Obama talked about today in any future Inauguration Days.
Even as much as the commercialization of every American holiday celebration has redefined the original intention and distorted the spirit behind every national occasion, it is oddly disconcerting to have today's auspicious occasion come and go without any retail opportunistic efforts attached to it.
Perhaps the Mayans were a month off in their calculations when they predicted the end of the world.