Credit card giant American Express came up with the idea for Small Business Saturday, launching the first one in November 2010. The event sought to encourage people to shop local small business establishments on the first Saturday following Thanksgiving. This is the day after so-called Black Friday.
With everyone crammed into big box store chains like Wal-Mart and Target looking for cheap door busters on Black Friday, small business owners were increasingly being overlooked and forgotten. Small Business Saturday was intended to remind shoppers that small retailers in their communities had deals of their own. These small stores could offer unique gifts and experiences not found in megastores. The idea quickly caught on and will be entering its ninth iteration Nov. 24, 2018.
As Small Business Saturday 2018 approaches, how has the event turned out after eight years? Was it just a clever marketing slogan? Or has it had a real, positive impact on American small businesses?
An estimated 200,000 U.S. shoppers participated in the first Small Business Saturday in 2010, according to American Express. Small retailers that accepted American Express cards reported an average 27 percent increase in sales charged to those cards compared to the same day in 2009. (It’s important to note that the credit card company offered registered card users $25 back on purchases made at small retailers on Small Business Saturday, but capped this number at 200,000. How many additional people were also drawn to shop at smaller retailers that day, and who didn’t get $25 back or use an American Express card will likely ever be known.)
Within five years, Small Business Saturday had grown into a big affair. In 2015, more than 95 million customers shopped at or dined at small business establishments on Small Business Saturday. Total spending at small businesses that day reached $16.2 billion. No small change and an all-time high.
In recent years, however, Small Business Saturday sales have been dropping. In 2017, 108 million customers shopped at small businesses, but their total purchases only reached $12.9 billion, down from $15 billion in 2016. Despite these recent decreases, the market is still strong. American Express has reported more than four in 10 Americans shopped or dined at a small business in 2017. More than two-thirds of U.S. shoppers are aware of the annual event.
The most patronized small businesses nationwide during the 2017 event were restaurants, bars and pubs (41 percent), clothing and accessory stores (24 percent), food stores (23 percent) and coffee shops (22 percent).
If you are a small business owner, you may be looking for ways you can reap some of the rewards of Small Business Saturday. Here are a few ideas to help you drive new business on November 24th, and the rest of the holiday season:
Come up with an exclusive Small Business Saturday promotion or discount
Who doesn’t love a discount, sale or coupon? Offering a special Small Business Saturday discount may help lure new customers into your establishment.
Host a special event
Have a breakfast, a prize giveaway or invite a local school choir or band to play in your business on Small Business Saturday as a way to get people in the door. You can even tie the event with a discount or sale as an extra incentive. Be sure to highlight the event and your discounts on social media.
Partner with nearby businesses to do joint marketing and cross-marketing
Your neighboring businesses may want to band together to hold a giant promotion or combined marketing push that will benefit all the surrounding retailers and establishments. This way, someone shopping at your neighbor can also learn about you and the products and services you offer, leading them to visit your establishment as well. Be sure to check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if you can be included in their Small Business Saturday marketing.
Extend business hours
Give people additional time to find you or to linger and shop or dine.
Be sure to have plenty of inventory and help
Few things are as bad for a business’ success than to get a potential customer excited enough to visit then deliver a disappointing experience once they get there. Be sure your inventory is well-stocked and you have enough help to assist patrons.
While Small Business Saturday is only one day, this could be your big chance to gain a customer for life if you give them a memorable experience. Good luck and good selling!