In stark contrast to the mad rush of Black Friday at crowded malls and chain stores, Small Business Saturday brings people together on Main Streets and in neighborhood business districts for a more rewarding and personable shopping experience. Small Business Saturday takes place in over 4,000 U.S. communities the Saturday following Thanksgiving (November 26 this year) and encourages people to frequent their local, independent businesses during the holiday season. The campaign also takes place in the United Kingdom and Australia, though on a different Saturday during the year.
Small Business Saturday broke records in 2015 for both overall participation and customer spending. Ninety-five million people patronized one or more independent business — a strong eight-percent increase over 2014. Spending at independent retailers and restaurants increased even more — growing 14 percent, from just over $14 billion in 2014 to more than $16 billion in 2015, according to a survey quantifying the impact of last year’s event.
American Express, the founding partner of Small Business Saturday, reported for 2015:
- More than 200 federal officials and agencies supported Small Business Saturday via social media;
- Mayors and other elected officials in all 50 states and Washington D.C. (including a large number of communities home to AMIBA affiliates) issued a whopping 551 city proclamations in support of Small Business Saturday, as did the U.S. Senate;
- Government officials in the U.S. recorded 14 public service announcements encouraging participation across the nation. Listen to Phoenix, AZ Mayor Greg Stanton promote Small Business Saturday (just click the arrow):
The number of Neighborhood Champions rose by 48 percent from 2014 to 2015, reaching a record 4,100 across the U.S. Neighborhood Champions are local residents and organizations engaging small businesses and residents in their community to participate in Small Business Saturday. They provide marketing materials to participating businesses, promote Small Business Saturday in the community and organize events to draw residents into their neighborhood shops. As of September 30, 2016, more than 3,000 Neighborhood Champions already were registered, and participation rates are expected to meet or exceed last year’s numbers.
Many Independent Business Alliances engage in the event with creative activities. Stay Local! (New Orleans) sponsored a “second line” brass band and Small Business Santa Claus with an entourage that visited businesses in a “commercial opportunity zone” populated by small and mostly-minority-owned businesses that don’t get the exposure enjoyed by those in neighborhood frequented by tourists.
In Wisconsin, Dane Buy Local (DBL) starts gearing up for the holiday season and Small Business Saturday in early November by distributing marketing materials to participating businesses. Prior to Thanksgiving, DBL hosts Madison’s mayor for a press conference, which in 2015 resulted in seven television features in just 10 days! Before and after Small Business Saturday Dane residents can enter into a drawing to win $500 – $600 by visiting participating businesses.
The Louisville Independent Business Alliance in Kentucky held a press conference with the mayor, a Congressional member and other VIPs to officially launch LIBA’s Shop Local for the hoLOUdays campaign. This included a giveaway of LIBA logo items, chalking the walk with campaign messages and a contest in which one lucky participant won a $1000 shopping spree at LIBA member businesses.
LIBA director Jennifer Rubenstein observed, “The sense of community among our business owners is even stronger on Small Business Saturday, and we were thrilled locals showed their Louisville love by coming out despite the rainy day.“ (We’d love to hear more stories and see news reports or photos about your SBS events to feature next year.)
St. Charles, Illinois’ Neighborhood Champion, the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, organized a Selfie Scavenger Hunt on last year’s Small Business Saturday to encourage residents to visit local businesses. Scavenger hunt participants took “selfies” in front of independent St. Charles businesses and posted them on Instagram. The Downtown St. Charles Partnership selected a winner at random to receive a gift basket filled with goodies from local shops. Other groups have done variations on the “local business bingo” theme, such as this example from Shop Local Raleigh (NC).
How to Engage
As a business supporter, sign up to become an official Neighborhood Champion and receive an event guide, emails with planning resources and Small Business Saturday best practices and promotional event materials. The deadline to apply is November 11.
As a business owner, find out if a local group is planning a Small Business Saturday campaign and see how you can get involved. Register online at the Shop Small Studio and Small Business Saturday 101 to access marketing materials, how-to guides, videos, infographics and additional support from past business participants and supporting entrepreneurs.
As a customer, support the businesses that keep your community unique and healthy! Of course, if you have an Independent Business Alliance or similarly-modeled group in your community, they’re a great source for your local options. ShopSmallNow.com also offers an easy-to-use map to find local shopping, dining and services in communities across the U.S.
See 10 Ways to Capitalize on Small Business Saturday (by the American Independent Business Alliance) for making the most of the event and many other holiday-season resources to help boost local businesses.
In addition to presenting Small Business Saturday, American Express currently is providing underwriting through AMIBA to assist local organizing initiatives that boost independent business and nurture more communities. This involves covering a large portion of the normal costs for local organizations to host presentations and workshops to help develop successful “buy local” campaigns, place-branding and other initiatives to help local entrepreneurs. Inquire here.