Why Small Business Saturday Is a Great Opportunity

Updated August 2018

Mark your calendars — Small Business Saturday® is November 24 this year and you don’t want to miss out. What started as an effort by American Express to drive more sales to small businesses during the holiday season has grown into a national event that celebrates and supports local businesses in neighborhoods across the country.

Last year, an estimated 108 million consumers reported shopping or dining at local, independently-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday – equating to roughly 43% of Americans.1 If you’re a local business owner, participating in this event is your chance to shine.

What is Small Business Saturday?

American Express launched Small Business Saturday on November 27, 2010. The day continues to be celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and encourages consumers to support their local small businesses during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

Since 2010, Small Business Saturday has become a shopping tradition in many communities, with more than 3.4 million Facebook likes to support small business owners by shopping local.

Shop Small Benefits

To help businesses prepare for the day, American Express provides free Small Business Saturday marketing materials as well as tips and inspiration on shopsmall.com. Qualifying American Express merchants can also apply for a listing on the official AMEX Shop Small® Map. In addition, American Express teams up with a number of corporate supporters, including FedEx, Valpak® and Square, to help spread awareness of the day and urge their customers to join the celebration. These resources can help local businesses get more exposure to a larger range of consumers looking to Shop Small.

Businesses that want to rally their communities to participate in a big way can sign up to become a neighborhood champion. Neighborhood Champions are small businesses, community organizations and local chambers of commerce that commit to organizing events or activities to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Once accepted, Neighborhood Champions receive emails with reminders and event ideas as well as an event kit with Shop Small-branded materials to help promote the day. Businesses can learn more about the program and sign up at ShopSmall.com/rally.

Small Business Saturday Ideas

Communities across the country have put their own spin on Small Business Saturday by building events, scavenger hunts, and special one-day-only promotions around the day. Here are some creative ideas and promotions that have emerged from this day.

Use a Community Approach

Main Street Beaufort, USA

Every year in Beaufort, SC, the mayor signs a proclamation that designates the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. Main Street Beaufort, USA, a nonprofit organization, also hosts a daylong event downtown that invites all local businesses and shoppers to partake in the celebration. Main Street Beaufort, USA helps prepare businesses by supplying them with promotional supplies, such as pens, and businesses offer special promotions or donate gift cards for raffles to incentivize shoppers. On the day of the event, Main Street Beaufort, USA invites a local radio station to broadcast live from the event and interview local small business owners. The director of Main Street Beaufort, USA estimates that at least 50 local businesses participate in the festivities every year, and many of them keep the doormats down year-round as a gentle reminder for customers to Shop Small.

Create Partnerships

Adams Morgan in Washington D.C.

By banding together with other small businesses, business owners can extend their advertising reach and get exposure to shoppers who otherwise might not have known about their stores. For example, local businesses in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. promote Small Business Saturday as a relaxed alternative to Black Friday.

“Choosing gifts for yourself, family or friends should be fun,” shares the owner of Skynear Designs, a participating local home furnishing and art shop. Working with neighbors is an exceptional way to create a sense of community and highlight your role as a small business, all the while saving on costs during the holiday season.

Put the Customer First

Lolo Boutique in Fullerton, CA

For some communities, Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to kick-off the holiday season. The founder/owner of Lolo Boutique in Fullerton, California, was thrilled to learn about Small Business Saturday and her local chamber of commerce’s passport program to encourage consumers to participate. “You don’t need to buy, you can just come in and get a stamp,” she shares. “Then, they turn in the passport to the chamber and the chamber gives away prizes.”

Upton also encouraged consumers to stop in with free holiday doughnuts and hot cider. Many of the customers who frequent her shop ask about Small Business Saturday plans well before the event and often mention coming in specifically to show their support for her business and other local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Use Social Media

In preparation, and to build anticipation for the big day, many local business owners promote Small Business Saturday via social media and email newsletters. Reaching out to your current database to inform loyal customers of special Small Business Saturday promotions is a great way to get the word out about the day to shoppers – especially those who are already familiar with your business.

Last year, there were more than 605,000 social media posts combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter about Small Business Saturday and/or the Shop Small Movement from November 1 through November 25, and nearly 177,000 were posted on November 25 alone.

Start Marketing for Shop Small Today

As a local business, determine how you can promote your business and be part of #SmallBizSat. While you can certainly tackle the event on your own, it’s a great idea to explore partnering with some neighboring businesses to capitalize on this day together. Sharing costs, planning duties and cross-promoting one another can be a win for all of you and help you reach a larger audience.

You don’t have to be an American Express merchant to participate in Small Business Saturday. Don’t miss out on a great way to highlight your local business and help enrich the community and local economy.

Here’s to wishing all the local visionaries in communities across America, the ones who took a chance on their dreams and turned them into realities, big success for #SmallBizSat and a strong finish for 2018!

1. The statistic cited is an estimate based on projections from a nationally representative sample of adult consumers as reported in the pre-2017 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey commissioned by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The Survey gathered self-reported data and does not reflect actual receipts or sales.
2. See Terms of Participation for full details.

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