Friday, January 13, 2012

Black Friday through Tuesday: Sears’ big MLK Event

Call it a sign of the times. If you want evidence that the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has fully trickled into the American experience, you didn’t have to look further than the ads for Sears “MLK Event,” broadcast frequently during the BCS championship football game between Alabama and LSU. The “Event,” which starts today and runs through Tuesday, offers markdowns on a range of Sears inventory, including HD televisions, Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools.

Sears is also offering an online-only special for the occasion: the chance to get $20 off the price of purchases of $200 or more. Just enter the promo code WEEKENDSAVINGS at checkout to receive your discount. Or get FREE SHIPPING by entering the promo code ... MLK.

It makes sense for Sears to mount this post-Christmas shopping opportunity. The 125-year-old company got hammered over the holidays, with same-store holiday sales at Sears and Kmart locations off nationally by more than 5 percent — a victim of aggressive competition from so-called dollar stores, department stores, online retailers like Amazon and the more muscular big-box retailers like Walmart. Sears reportedly plans to close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores nationwide in the new year.

In the meantime, Sears is all about making the most of a well-known brand, and Americans’ never-ending hunt for a bargain. Bring on the preacher from Birmingham.

Any attempts by lawmakers and closed-minded skeptics to politicize the MLK holiday thus run head-on into our longstanding national ability to commercialize all such holidays. Think about it. How often in your lifetime have you seen live actors portraying George Washington or Abraham Lincoln as they sell you a new car or a GREAT DEAL on carpets or home spas, with “Yankee Doodle” playing patriotically on the soundtrack?

Sooner or later, all aspects of American identity are subsumed into the national economy. The MLK Day holiday is no exception. One might charitably describe it as part of the price we pay for equality.

Image credits: Ad snapshot and Sears logo: © 2012 Sears Brands LLC.

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