What Major Retailers Are Missing Out On This Veterans Day

Everywhere today, people are acknowledging the fact that it's Veterans Day and talking about how much they value and appreciate the service of the men and women in our armed forces. Everywhere except, it seems, the marketing departments of major retailers. This morning I looked at the top 10 U.S. retailers' websites to see what they were saying about Veterans Day and if they were running any promotions for veterans. Not sales for the rest of us, but discounts that benefit veterans and veterans alone. The results are mostly disappointing and somewhat surprising.

Here's the rundown:

Rank #1: Walmart
No acknowledgement of Veterans Day.

Rank #2: Kroger
There's a clickable link to tell us to remember veterans.

When you click on it, however, the company merely toots it's own horn about what a veteran friendly employer it is. No promotions for veterans.

Rank #3: The Home Depot
The Home Depot does fairly well. When you click on the flag on the homepage it takes you to a page that acknowledges the holiday and thanks veterans for their service. Home Depot has a year round veteran discount program but nothing special for the holiday.


Rank #4: Costco
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #5: Target
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #6: Walgreens
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #7: CVS Caremark
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #8: Lowes
Lowes does well. It's promotion is communicated clearly and it's generous to boot - it's extended to both current military personnel, veterans and their family members.

Rank #9: Sears Holdings
Sears offers a 3 day sales promotion, but it's for everyone, not specifically for veterans and it doesn't thank veterans for their service.


Rank #10: BestBuy
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

While it's not in the top 10, Kmart is another notable offender who cynically offers sales for the rest of us (with no words of thanks), but nothing in particular for veterans or their families.

It's hard for me to believe that there isn't money in these retailers' budgets to offer some sort of promotion for servicemen and women. I'm also pretty sure that their marketing communications staff could be nimble enough to add something to their websites today so that, at the very least, they are acknowledging today's significance to their customers; many of whom, I'm sure, are military families. So I'm nonplussed. What a missed opportunity to strategically drive sales and simultaneously improve their brand images while strengthening relationships with their customers.

Schools are closed, government workers are sitting at home in their fuzzy slippers and National Parks have opened their gates to the general public. A day off from work or school or a chance to visit one of the country's most beautiful spots is great for those of us that can benefit from it, but many of our vets are still going to work today because they have to put food on the table. And for some, that can be a real struggle. Is Veterans Day really about veterans or is it more about the rest of us? In this economy especially, doesn't it make sense that marketers should offer veterans something to acknowledge their service that will impact their pocketbooks?

UPDATE: At least some of the restaurant sector seems to get it. Allison Linn offers a list on her blog over at MSNBC of some major restaurant chains that are offering deals and giveaways to active military personnel, veterans and their families.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius. 

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