Two U.S.-based retailers offered Remembrance Day sales to their Canadian customers this year, a practice one retail analyst calls “horrible” and “disrespectful”.
“Canadians are very sensitive about the commercialization of this sacred holiday,” independent retail analyst and consultant Bruce Wintertold CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “Certainly in Canada it’s been taboo to have any type of sale on Remembrance Day, for the obvious reason that we’re remembering our fallen soldiers.”
Lenovo’s Canadian-facing site says that “Our biggest Remembrance Day sale ever is coming in 2020,” and asks customers to sign up. Lenovo’s head office is in Beijing, and its operational headquarters is in North Carolina.
Customers of window blind retailer blinds.ca could get a fourth window blind free if they buy three under that company’s Remembrance Day sale, which was originally supposed to end Nov. 11.
“At Blinds.ca we have the utmost respect for military veterans, their families and their sacrifices,” wrote spokesperson Kathleen Hartnett, who is based in Houston. “We apologize to our Canadian shoppers for any disrespect that this has caused and we have removed the sale from our site.”
Lenovo did not respond to a request for comment.
Remembrance Day sales have been controversial in the past. Veterans and their organizations condemned similar sales by Eddie Bauer in 2010, and The Gap in 2014.
“While we are supportive of retailers who wish to show their thanks to our veterans, we would not want to see the actual commercialization of Remembrance Day, or of the remembrance period itself,” Royal Canadian Legion spokesperson Nujma Bond said in a written statement.
Grocery chain Whole Foods reversed a controversial ban on employees wearing poppies last week, after political leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Fordcondemned it; Trudeau called it a “silly mistake.”
Winter, and Ryerson University historian Peter Vronsky, point out that Veterans Day sales are common in the U.S. around Nov. 11, and say that companies seem to have carried the concept into Canada without paying enough attention to cultural difference.
“In the United States traditionally, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are holidays in a strange way,” he says. “That’s their cultural tradition, But Remembrance Day was never really a holiday in that sense of the word here. This was a solemn memorial, a dark day. The Americans have a different approach.
“I think there’s a much more solemn sense of what Remembrance Day stands for – it’s not about going shopping, certainly.”
Winter says it’s an example of marketing practices being simply transferred from one country to another without enough attention to cultural difference, something he calls “a rookie mistake.”
“Sometimes companies just don’t do the due diligence,” he says, pointing out that “Canadians are very sensitive about the commercialization of this sacred holiday.”
“There are a number of companies that think that the way they market in their home country, they can use the exact same practices around the world. That’s something you learn the hard way, that you can’t do that – you have to be local. You have to think about local tastes and local holidays and local consumer sentiment and behaviour.”
Retail analyst Craig Patterson calls the sales “a big marketing fail” that would have been prevented by basic research that would have quickly shown previous years’ controversies.
“The bar is not high – it’s pretty easy,” he says.
“I would just shake my head and say: ‘You guys just need to do your research. Do your job. It’s not that hard to do a little bit of backgrounding. You’re operating in another country – you need to understand the cultural norms of that country.’ I don’t know that there are that many excuses.”
This content was originally published here.