Held on the first Monday of each September, Labor Day in the U.S. is a national holiday that was born out of labor disputes in the late 19th century.  According to the Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor historian, today’s modern Labor Day dates back to a parade of unions and a massive picnic that took place in New York City on September 5, 1882. (This year, 2016, the holiday is also September 5.) During the following 12 years, several states enacted holidays and on June 28, 1894, the U.S. Congress and President designated it as a national holiday.

The evolution of Labor Day

As the percentage of the nation’s workforce who belong to a labor union has dropped (to 11.1 percent of U.S. wage and salary workers in 2015), the focus of Labor Day has changed for many Americans. For many, the day has become an informal “end of summer” event, serving with late May’s Memorial Day as bookends for the summer vacation season.

Last-minute ideas for Labor Day promotions

While most businesses are closed for the day, many small and local retailers and restaurants use the weekend leading up to Labor Day as a special promotion. It’s an ideal time to clear out some back-to-school merchandise and prepare for Halloween and the holiday season right around the corner. If you plan on staying open, here are some promotional ideas to consider.

Kickoff the season | In many parts of the U.S., the biggest season of the year starts around Labor Day: Of course, we mean football season. Tie-in with the local high school for a season-starting celebration. Offer discounts to players and coaches. (Don’t break any NCAA recruiting rules, however.) Wear jerseys and have a contest for best fan on your staff. Give away mini-sized footballs or bobble-heads as door-prizes.

Host a parking lot party | Whether you call it a cookout or a barbecue, cookup hamburgers or regional favorites and invite your customers to drop by mid-day. Are adjacent businesses staying open? Have a pop-up party and recruit a blue-grass band. One word: Fun.

Host a “labor” day event | Prior to that parking lot party, recruit volunteers to participate in a volunteer community service event.

hamburgers and hotdogs cooking on flaming grill shot with selective focus

Image credit: Carnivore Style

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