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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Columbus Day sale — a longtime ritual for car dealers and department stores — is dead.

The big picture: Retailers are moving away from big sales events in general, and are especially eager to distance themselves from this particularly disputatious federal holiday, which falls on Monday.

The intrigue: For years, states and municipalities have started renaming "Columbus Day" as "Indigenous Peoples' Day" to protest the legacy of colonialism that hangs over Christopher Columbus' so-called "discovery" of America.

  • The last thing retailers want is to get caught in the culture wars.
  • "I think this one is an easy one that they can just say, 'Hey, I'm just going to rename the sale or cancel the sale and not worry about it," says Katie Thomas, leader of the Kearney Consumer Institute, a think tank within the management consulting firm Kearney.
  • Plus, fewer people get a day off of work for Columbus Day than in the past, so they don't have a long weekend to go shopping.

Driving the news: Canceling or scaling back big sales events this year would be an especially easy call. This season's well-documented "Everything Shortage" means that retailers don't know what inventory they'll have in a few weeks, and thus can't plan marketing campaigns ahead of time.

  • "If you make a big deal about this weekend and say you’re going to have a lot of great products, you’re going to basically set yourself up for a stockout and disappoint a bunch of people," Marc Rousset, a partner in the retail and consumer goods practice at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, tells Axios.

But even after supply chains and inventories finally stabilize, whenever that may be, retailers probably will still be scaling back big one-weekend-only sales events.

  • "Some of those sales are just a little bit outdated or relics of the past," Thomas tells Axios. "Some of the traditional department store sales, like a white sale, just aren't quite as relevant any more."

What's next: Expect to see fewer department and big-box stores pegging big sales to federal holidays.

  • "I wouldn't be surprised to see Memorial Day [sales] go next," Rousset said.
  • "That's kind of bold — I don't know that I would bet the farm on that — but I think people, you know, see the benefits of simplifying."

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Jan 14, 2022 - Economy & Business

Record level consumer demand drops as high prices surge

Data: FRED; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Record levels of consumer demand are petering out as high prices cut into wages and add to household worries.

Why it matters: Shoppers will hold off on buying if goods get too expensive — a trend that if big enough could slow down economic growth.

Corporate America's incredibly profitable pandemic

Expand chart
Data: S&P Dow Jones Indices; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Companies are about to blast out a blizzard of quarterly profit and sales numbers over the next few weeks, as the carnival of Q4 corporate results kicks off.

Driving the news: Large banks will open the floodgates, issuing reports early Friday that mark the unofficial start of earnings season on Wall Street.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.