Mark your calendars — Small Business Saturday is November 28th this year and you don’t want to miss out. It started as a genius marketing campaign from American Express to rally consumers to buy local during the busy holiday season, but it’s grown into a national event. It celebrates and supports all of the local businesses in neighborhoods across the country and all that they do for our communities.
Last year in 2014, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small, independent businesses on Small Business Saturday alone. If you’re a local business owner, participating in this event is not only a great way to be a part of something bigger than you, but it shows your involvement and commitment to the community. SBS could end up being your biggest sales day of the year!
What Is Small Business Saturday?
American Express Small Business Saturday had its inaugural event on November 27th, 2010. AmEx created this day to be held every Saturday after Thanksgiving in an effort to promote shopping local in the wake of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday hysteria. Since 2010, Small Business Saturday has become a shopping staple in many communities, with more than 3.3 million Facebook fans encouraged to support their communities and shop local.
Sandwiched between its mammoth brothers of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is still holding its own. In part because the ritual of Black Friday shopping has become crazier than ever and pushing people towards shopping online or shopping other days of the week during the holiday season instead. Many shoppers simply don’t want to put up with the pushing and shoving during this midnight shopping fiasco. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, is gaining in popularity, but still doesn’t help shoppers looking to buy unique, hand crafted items that are produced in their hometown.
Small Business Benefits
While all businesses have access to great freebies from American Express, including marketing materials to help promote their small business sales, qualifying American Express merchants get access to extra perks. These include free online ads to run throughout the year, and their location on the official Shop Small Map. Having these advertising opportunities grants local businesses more exposure to a larger range of consumers looking to shop small. In addition to providing useful marketing tools, AmEx partnered with major names like Facebook, Verizon, and AARP to help promote awareness of the event and rally participation.
It’s important to note that any and every small, local business can take part in Small Business Saturday — with or without being a “qualifying American Express merchant.”
#ShopSmall became the official hashtag to help local business owners promote their event, as well as create a greater conversation regarding the importance of shopping small. A recent study done by bealocalist.org found that when you spend $100 at a local business, about $68 stays within your local economy, as opposed to spending the same at a large business where roughly only $43 stays within the local economy. These kinds of stats alone help drive consumers to a more local approach when it comes to shopping.
Opportunities for Small Businesses
Communities across the country have begun to spearhead entire events, scavenger hunts, and special one-day-only promotions around Small Business Saturday. Many innovative and creative ideas and promotions have emerged from this day, which are helping local businesses across America thrive.
Use a Community Approach
Main Street Beaufort, USA
In Beaufort, SC, every year the city council declares the day to be “official Small Business Saturday” with a proclamation read by the mayor. Their Main Street Beaufort, USA, a nonprofit organization, hosts a day-long event downtown inviting all local businesses to partake in the fun. They essentially do all the work for businesses, allowing them to pick up promotional supplies including branded floor mats, in exchange for donating gift cards used later for raffles and other giveaways. On the day of the event, a local radio station is on-site broadcasting live for three hours and interviewing local small-business owners. Other giveaways include themed shopping bags, which helps extend the legacy of the event throughout the year, as well as reduces the carbon footprint of the city. LaNelle Fabian, director of Main Street Beaufort, USA estimates that at least 50 local businesses take part in the festivities every year, and many of them keep the floor mats down all year as a gentle reminder to customers to shop small.
Skynear Designs in Washington D.C.
By banding together with other small businesses, owners can easily and rapidly extend their advertising reach, welcoming in a new customer base that otherwise might not have known about their store. For example, local business Skynear Designs in Washington D.C. stretches their advertising dollars by connecting with other local shops to share advertising costs and gallery space. Working with neighbors is an exceptional way to create a sense of community and highlight their role as a small business, all the while saving on advertising during the holiday season.
Put the Customer First
Apples Bakery in Peoria, IL
For others, Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to kick-off the holiday season. For Apples Bakery in Peoria, Illinois, this day was initially trial and error. As a bake shop, their busiest day of the year is the day before Thanksgiving. “By Small Business Saturday, our customers are full,” says owner Mary Ardapple. In fact, the first year they participated, she offered a lunch special that completely flopped; customers had a refrigerator full of turkey leftovers at home.
Honing in on that entrepreneurial spirit, she then decided to use the day as a kick-off with a pre-holiday sale offering 20% off certain treats and goodies. And, to add to the “season of giving,” her bakery donates 20% of the day’s sales to a local food charity. “It’s not a high volume day for us,” Ardapple says. “It’s more about getting the community to participate, because to me, that’s what small business is all about.”
Use Social Media
In preparation, and to build anticipation for the big day, many local business owners pre-promote it via social media and email newsletters. Reaching out to their current database to inform loyal customers of special Small Business Saturday promotions is a great way to do your part, even when bigger organizations may be stepping in to help. This ensures that shoppers will be coming out with your business in mind and mentally expecting to monetarily support your shop.
Moreover, piggybacking on the promotion and momentum created from this popular event, businesses can (and should) utilize the #ShopSmall hashtag. Two other widely used hashtags to represent the day are #SmallBizSat and #DineSmall. While this day was originally invented to bring business to small shops and boutiques, local restaurants got involved and the #DineSmall hashtag was born in an effort to give eating establishments their own identity during #SmallBizSat. Last year, organizers reported more than 300,000 tweets went out in support of the three hashtags. That’s a lot of exposure!
Start Shopping Small Today!
As a local business, determine how you can promote your business and be part of the #SmallBizSat conversation. While you can certainly tackle the event on your own, it’s a great idea to include some neighboring businesses to combat this day together. Sharing advertising costs and helping in promoting one another will be a win for all in the long run. Working together will allow you to delegate duties, divvy up advertising bills, and reach a much larger audience.
Consider trying to capture customer information to build your database during this “holiday.” Ask shoppers to sign up for your newsletter, or encourage them to like your social media pages for extra freebies or discounts.
Regardless if you’re an American Express merchant or not, you can still participate in this event. Don’t miss out on a great way to highlight your local business that enriches the community and local economy.
In an age of global markets and online shopping, it’s far too easy for small businesses to struggle and fail even when they have superior products and services. With events like Small Business Saturday, we have the power to change this and encourage people everywhere to shop small within their own community.
Here’s to wishing all the local visionaries in communities across America, the ones that took a chance on their dreams and turned them into realities, big sales for #SmallBizSat and a strong finish for 2015!