Why are there so many Memorial Day sales?

A couple lies on a mattress at a furniture store having a sale
May 23, 2024 | Ben Heinze

To some, Memorial Day may bring thoughts of honoring members of the U.S. armed forces that died while serving. Alternatively, your mind may jump to the abundance of sales held by retailers nationwide. At first glance, Memorial Day can seem like an odd holiday to commercialize given the nature of the holiday, but there are several key reasons why businesses see it as a prime opportunity to push their products. Learn why Memorial Day sales are so prevalent today and what makes the holiday an ideal choice for businesses looking to draw in customers.

Holidays are ideal times for sales

Any federal holiday introduces substantial business opportunities. With only 11 federal holidays a year, businesses want to capitalize on everyone who has the day off. While Memorial Day doesn’t lend itself as naturally to commercialization as a holiday like Christmas, businesses aren’t about to let the opportunity go to waste.

Since Memorial Day falls on a Monday, it creates a three-day weekend for the many Americans who get the day off. These workers often use the extra free time to shop, especially if an enticing deal drives them in. A Memorial Day sale helps businesses capitalize on the increased shopping activity and draw in potential customers while they can.

Memorial Day’s position on the calendar

Lack of other holidays

While any holiday lends itself to sales opportunities, Memorial Day’s position on the calendar also plays a huge role in the prevalence of Memorial Day sales. Holidays are not distributed evenly throughout the year. In fact, many are bunched up in relatively short periods, such as Christmas falling on December 25 and New Year’s coming only a week later on January 1.

Memorial Day always falls on the last Monday in May, providing a reprieve from the lack of holidays in the months before it. By the time Memorial Day comes around, it’s been over two months since the last federal holiday, which is President’s Day (officially designated as Washington’s Birthday) on the third Monday in February. For employees that don’t receive President’s Day off, their last holiday off could be all the way back on New Year’s.

While Juneteenth comes only a few weeks after Memorial Day, it’s only been a designated federal holiday since 2021, and many employers haven’t adjusted to give their employees that day off. Additionally, Juneteenth can fall in the middle of the week, making it a less convenient shopping day than the final day of a three-day weekend.

Simply put, Memorial Day is the first holiday off most workers have had in months, and businesses want to take advantage. The next best opportunity for a holiday sale after Memorial Day is the 4th of July, which is longer than businesses want to wait.

Summertime is sales time

Another boon to Memorial Day’s sales proclivity is that it’s viewed as an unofficial start to summer. While summer doesn’t officially start until mid-June, the weather tends to heat up, and schools get out around or soon after Memorial Day.

With summer comes opportunities for sales. While there are sales across many product categories on Memorial Day, discounts on outdoor cookware, patio furniture and summer clothes have an increased focus and consumer demand.

Okay, but why are so many Memorial Day sales mattress sales?

While outdoor products are a great match for a Memorial Day sale, there’s no product more ubiquitous to Memorial Day than the mattress. While the connection between the two isn’t obvious, there are several reasons why Memorial Day mattress sales remain popular.

First, finding the perfect mattress match means trying mattresses out in person to test their comfort and feel. A three-day holiday weekend is a great opportunity to do this. Additionally, many people purchase mattresses while they’re in the process of moving, and summer is the most popular time of year to move. Finally, mattress companies often introduce new models around June, so a steep Memorial Day sale is a good way for retailers to clear out old inventory and make room for the new.

Holiday commercialization is nothing new

While some detest conflating a holiday centered around honoring the lives of fallen service members with large retail sales, holidays becoming commercialized is about as American as Memorial Day itself.

Labor Day falls into a similar boat, with its original intention to honor the labor of everyday Americans often taking second place to big retail sales. Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas and more, also center heavily around commercial activity, even if that wasn’t the holiday’s original intent. Thanksgiving may be mainly about family connection and food, but Black Friday immediately follows it up with some of the busiest shopping activity of the year.

When looking at other American holidays, it should be of little surprise that Memorial Day has also become commercialized, even if the purpose of the holiday doesn’t naturally lend itself to that.

Planning on shopping Memorial Day sales?

Sales are an excellent opportunity to buy something you’ve had your eye on for less, but it can be easy to get carried away and overspend. If you’re planning to take advantage of Memorial Day sales, keep these tips in mind:

  • Set a budget in advance: Go into Memorial Day with a set number you’re okay with spending. As you shop, keep track of how much money you have left to spend and be sure you don’t go over it.
  • Check if items are truly on sale: A common sneaky sales tactic involves raising the price of items in the weeks or months leading up to a sale and then marking them back to their original price under the guise of a “sale.” Before buying, research the price history of sale items you’re interested in.
  • Don’t shop sales just to shop: Saving 30% on new patio furniture sounds great, but you’re only truly saving if you planned on making that purchase anyways. Only buy what you already need or want—before you see it on sale. Even though Memorial Day can seem like an odd choice of holiday for big sales, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. If you’ve wondered why Memorial Day sales are so common, seeing things from the businesses’ point of view can paint a better picture of how the holiday became the commercialized day it’s become.


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