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Sunday is Father's Day — a big holiday for many of us, with gifts bought and outings planned. But wait, Sunday is also National Splurge Day. So, once you wrap up brunch with Pa, go get a facial or a massage, or buy those ridiculously expensive shoes you've been coveting. It doesn't matter — just honor the spirit of the day and do something splurge-y! Or...don't.
How many of these national days or "hashtag holidays" do we even have now? According to this list by TrackMaven, in June alone there are nearly 100 — more than triple the amount of days in the month. You've got National Jerky Day (June 8), National Smile Power Day (June 15), National Selfie Day (June 21), National Pecan Sandies Day (June 23), and National Handshake Day (June 29), to name but a few. Who comes up with these days, anyway?
From War Time to Amazon Prime
Benjamin Glaser, features editor with DealNews, shared a quick history lesson.
"In the 1980s, Congress loved creating 'holidays' recognizing various industries," said Glaser. "But the recent boon in these kinds of holidays is largely due to a single woman: Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith. She claims to have created over 2,000, including [National] Splurge Day."
Some of these days are a bit more "real," Glaser added, noting that National Doughnut Day (the first Friday in June) was created as a fundraiser by the Salvation Army in 1938, in commemoration of their volunteers who served doughnuts to soldiers in World War I.
"Now, all the major donut chains and most local shops do some kind of promotion [on National Doughnut Day]," said Glaser.
National Coffee Day, Pi Day, and Star Wars Day are examples of other popular ones that tend to drum up related deals and freebies from retailers. In 2015 Amazon jumped on the holiday bandwagon with Prime Day, scoring a major victory. Last year the e-commerce giant said Prime Day 2016 was its biggest day ever.
Related: How to Celebrate National Pi Day
But while some National Days provide ample opportunities for retailers and consumers, others feel forced and gimmicky.
Deals Are Nice, But Gimme A Break
"We have way too many retail holidays, and I think consumers have had enough," said Esther Babayov, head of marketing and communications at The Suit Depot. "It seems like every single weekend is another cause for celebration, and by extension, 15 percent off sales."
It's not that consumers don't like deals — surely we do — but when we're being relentlessly sprayed with sales pertaining to random, made-up holidays that don't have any clear meaning, we may feel played.
"When a holiday sale isn't relevant to the business it comes across as taking advantage of the day in order to push more sales, and that's something that can turn off a customer," added Babayov. "Consumers want to be confident that a business isn't pushing anything on them, but is actually providing a relevant and valuable offer, not just trying to make another sale."
And consumers don't want to feel they're falling for a deceptive ploy — which, unfortunately, is how some marketing experts perceive National Splurge Day.
"It’s just another sale for pre-summer holidays and seasonal stock-clearing," said Enda McShane, founder and CEO of Velocity Worldwide. "It’s a transparent gimmick with no clear objective except to ‘make yourself happy’. I particularly like the suggestion that you can ‘splurge without spending,’ but I am sure a retailer would not be happy to see that idea being pushed on National Splurge Day."
The June Retail Blues
Ioannis Kareklas, assistant professor of marketing at the School of Business, University at Albany suggests that where National Splurge Day falls on the calendar year exposes its true motivations.
"I [suspect] its timing in June has to do with the fact that June is not typically a strong month for retail sales, which tend to follow seasonal/holiday patterns," Kareklas told NBC News.
Not only is June traditionally a slow month for retail, this year its capping a particularly chilly spring that has been rough on the apparel market.
“With the past six weeks trending much cooler in the Northwest, Midwest and Northeast bringing apparel sales down 5 percent to 15 percent, it’s not surprising that retailers are looking for anything to save the day,” said Bill Kirk, CEO of Weather Trends International. "National Splurge Day is just an excuse to drive retail sales that have been extremely soft this year due to the cold/wet March, May and so far, early June.”
Will Millennials Splurge?
These National Days are also called Hashtag Holidays because they're heavily marketed on social media. While Gen-Xers and even baby boomers are hip to these platforms, social media truly belongs to the millennials who have been hooked on Facebook and Instagram since college or even high school. And this age group is not an easy sell.
"Millenials are sensitive to inauthentic messaging, and they're less materialistic than baby boomers," noted Beth Leavenworth DuFault, assistant professor of marketing, School of Business, University at Albany. "Since [National Splurge Day] is a made-up holiday in the first place, and centered around materialism, it's not likely to resonate strongly.”
While millennials aren’t as into “stuff” as previous generations, they are passionate about other purchasable things like travel and dining out.
“If a promotion changed the focus of the day to spending on a cool experience — travel, sports, concerts, cultural events — millennials could be receptive,” added DuFault.
Even if some marketers are successful this year, it’s hard to imagine that National Splurge Day will really soar. It hasn’t done very well in the past.
Maybe it’s time for a National Stop Trying To Make This Day Happen Day.