Updated October 2018
Even after six years, Small Business Saturday’s impact is still expanding rapidly. An estimated 112 million people turned out to patronize independent businesses in their communities this year, a strong 13% increase from 2015, to shop their local businesses. More than 6,700 “Neighborhood Champions” across the U.S. organized events and helped recruit 2.1 million local businesses to participate in their communities’ day-of festivities.
Many Independent Business Alliances were among the groups planning events, contests and unique incentives to draw crowds to their local member businesses.
To entice shoppers downtown and motivate them to frequent new businesses, Local First Arkansas teamed up with member business South Main Creative to host a scavenger hunt in Little Rock. Armed with a list of objects hidden throughout participating businesses, hunters had to locate each item and then post a photo of it to Instagram using the hashtag #shopsmall and localized hashtags in the caption. Ten lucky hunters won goodie bags stocked with items from participating businesses. “Business owners loved it because it brought people to their stores who previously had not known the store existed,” says Local First Arkansas Director Susie Cowan.
The scavenger hunt reflects the overall booming popularity of Small Business Saturday in Little Rock. Cowan remembers the first event four years ago saw a small crowd that mostly was unaware the event was even happening. In contrast, says Cowan, this year “people came out with the intention to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Many business owners saw regular customers coming into their shops just to show their support for the event and Little Rock’s independent businesses.”
Keep St. Petersburg Local in Florida leveraged Small Business Saturday to generate news coverage about the Localization Movement. The Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Business Journal and the SaintPetersBlog all ran features encouraging the public to support the event and highlighting the importance of thinking “local first” year round. Major political figures added their support, too. One was U.S. Representative from Florida Kathy Castor, who visited local businesses to encourage shoppers to shift their spending locally and attend Small Business Saturday events.
While it’s inspiring to see Small Business Saturday growing in success and popularity, it’s important to remember buying local should not end with the holiday season. In the words of Keep St. Petersburg Local founder Olga Bof, “It’s not about a trendy thing. You support local because our community matters.” So, next time you head out to make a purchase or need a service of some kind, remember the local businesses you visited on Small Business Saturday or during the holiday season and choose to patronize them throughout the entire year – not just between November and December. Consider it a gift to your community.
See 10 Ways to Capitalize on Small Business Saturday for more ideas on building a high-impact event.
More Holiday Campaign and Event Examples Adapt for your community!