What can retailers do for 2020’s graduates?

Sources: Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut/DMI, Chipotle, Life is Good
Jun 26, 2020

In Las Vegas, graduates from local high schools are being awarded a free 3-Taco Combo Meal at La Bonita Supermarkets.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate the grads this year,” said Armando Martinez, general manager of La Bonita Supermarkets, according to Lasvegasnow.com. “They are graduating in a completely different world, and we just wanted to do something to celebrate them.”

La Bonita Supermarkets joins a host of other retailers, restaurants and brands that have reached out to celebrate 2020 high school and college graduates who, with schools suddenly closed, have missed out on once-in-a-lifetime events.

High schoolers were denied coming-of-age moments, from proms to spring sports and graduation ceremonies, as well as spending their final months with four-year friends. Both older and younger grads also face great uncertainties. College grads enter the worst job market since the Great Depression.

“While nothing looks the same this year as it has in the past, we know how hard the 2020 graduates have worked to get to this momentous life milestone, and we want to be there to celebrate right alongside them,” said John Dillon, chief brand officer and executive vice president for Denny’s. “Despite the challenges, there’s still reason to celebrate.”

Denny’s is offering a BOGO Grand Slam breakfast in June through Dennys.com and its app throughout the month of June. 

Others rolling out programs celebrating graduates:

  • Pizza Hut partnered with Dairy Management, representing America’s dairy farmers, to deliver half a million pizzas to graduates and their families;
  • Krispy Kreme handed out a dozen donuts in May to anyone dressed in their graduation cap and gown or a “Class of 2020” shirt or letterman jacket;
  • Life is Good held a virtual commencement ceremony featuring an address given by the apparel brand’s co-founder and chief creative optimist John Jacobs as well as performances by The Avett Brothers, Michael Franti and IN-Q.
  • Vans is live-streaming a virtual grad night on its official YouTube channel, the Vans Facebook page and the Vans Family app featuring first-hand experiences and advice from Steve Van Doren, Tony Hawk and Sami Miro as well as a special performance from King Princess.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What opportunities do you see for retailers or food establishments to celebrate and support 2020’s high school and college graduates? Are their ways retailers can help grads get their career plans and other goals back on track?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"I think these kids are going to need even more encouragement and support for when they have to deal much more directly with a life put on hold."

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9 Comments on "What can retailers do for 2020’s graduates?"

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Nikki Baird
I feel uniquely qualified to comment here, as my son is a high-schooler in the class of 2020. I have a couple of pieces of advice. One, the moment has passed. While they have appreciated the recognition, at this point it’s starting to feel more like salt in the wound than anything that makes up for what they’ve lost. So I think one thing that’s important to emphasize in any going forward messaging would be “we know this in no way makes up for what you missed out on.” Two, be careful in your giveaways. My son went to get his free donuts from Krispy Kreme but came back shaken, because there was no crowd control and it was early in the easing of lockdown. He left without getting any because the crowd scared him away. It would be really bad to have your giveaway turn into an outbreak event. Three, retailers should consider things that actually help these kids on their way. I’m speaking mostly of high school students here, but while donuts or… Read more »
Dave Wendland

I’m in the same boat, Nikki. My daughter graduated high school during these unusual times and my son earned his MBA to an empty room. But those events are now in the rearview mirror and will forever be part of their respective histories. For my daughter, moving onward with college is vital and the life she is planning to start with high school behind her. For my son, he’s gainfully employed, about to publish a book, and not allowing the circumstances of the day to limit his future. No coupons, special offers, or discounts will replace the disappointment over the past four months — it is time to progress beyond the setbacks.

Craig Sundstrom

Amen! The road to Hell can be paved with … free donuts.

Oliver Guy
Oliver Guy
Global Industry Architect, Microsoft Retail
2 years 1 month ago

This is a great subject and I empathize greatly. My son is a little younger at 15 years old and will not be able to do his planned work experience this summer. Young people are missing out in so many ways. What can be done is providing online replacements of work experience. This creates a challenge but also shows investment into future talent – while also potentially allowing the identification of future talent.

Shep Hyken

Anything a retailer can do to endear themselves to students during this highly emotional and memorable time will serve them down the road. A random gift may not be remembered, but a gift in the middle of a crisis may be something the student/customer remembers the rest of their lives. The examples above will be etched into their memories forever.

Ralph Jacobson

The opportunities are limitless. All of the examples in the article are just ways to congratulate the graduates while the retailers can enjoy just a bit of self-promotion. All good, all the way around.

Craig Sundstrom

I’ll be honest, I have a very mixed reaction to the examples presented here. They seem like the kind of gestures which when presented in normal times would be appreciated, or at least not provoke a negative reaction, but in the current environment seem … problematic. “You just missed your senior year…” or “your future looks doomed, but here’s pancake platter to make up for it.” In short, I think it might be seen as trivializing things (and don’t forget, the grads have their personal problems ON TOP of more general problems their families are likely facing).

But maybe I’m overthinking this … hopefully a few seniors will write in and tell us how they actually feel about it.

Brian Cluster
Along with Nikki and Dave, I also have a daughter that graduated High School this year. In many ways, retail is the foundation of many careers across the world whether you are still in the industry or not. For many, retail was their first job and their first opportunity to understand the value of hard work, working as a team in a professional setting, and customer service. My first job at retail was at Jewel Osco working for Daymon Worldwide and I still circle back to some of the experiences. The first way that retailers may help the 2020 graduates is to develop a special program where they may hire HS graduates for several months in the Summer with the purpose of helping to train them in work life and all the essential skills of retail. This will provide the recent graduate some more practical skills and give them more confidence and they can continue the job during school or reconnect with the retailer during the next break. Recent High School graduates that are going… Read more »
Brian Numainville

I think what Nikki said is key, “the moment has passed … it’s starting to feel more like salt in the wound.” I have older kids, one who graduated from law school and the other double majored in computer science and statistics, and also graduated this year (although is doing one more year for his MS). It wasn’t the graduation either of them expected, but they have moved on — one is now doing a remote internship and the other is gainfully employed. They hardly want to be reminded of what could have been or wasn’t at this point, and I doubt any gift or gimmick would resonate well!

"I think these kids are going to need even more encouragement and support for when they have to deal much more directly with a life put on hold."

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