Small Business Saturday, which is sandwiched in between the big retailers’ upcoming — and seismically larger — Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, continues to gain traction in its eighth year of promoting shops on Main St. It also has been a bright success in the midst of some challenging years for American Express, which launched the program in 2010 with the last recession in full bloom.
It continues to promote the concept and assist the small businesses that participate along with corporate partners FedEx, Etsy, Grubhub and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“American Express helps build the campaign by creating customizable marketing materials that retailers can use to promote the effort. It’s another brilliant marketing effort by the credit card company; the Small Business Saturday Facebook page has more than 3.4 million likes, and momentum grows each year,” writes Forbes contributor Rohit Arora.
And it’s not just about in-shop sales. In Columbus, Ga., for example, many of the local artisans, painters, potters, craftsmen and farmers who have booths on the Market on Broadway every Saturday also have a digital presence.
“Most creative entrepreneurs have websites where customers can purchase individual pieces or book commissions, and many are running online specials through the weekend that they will announce the week of Thanksgiving,” writes Carrie Beth Wallace for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “An effective way to stay in the loop for online sales throughout the holiday season is to follow local artists on social media. Most will update daily and some even post photos of work in progress.”
In collaboration with Detroit-based Doner, The UPS Store has created a series of online videos “with sales strategies to help small business owners close the deal and bring customers back after the Small Business Saturday hype. Closer Kit print materials such as specialized business cards, merchandise rack cards and come back cards are also available to help entrepreneurs share their unique story with each customer,” according to a release.
About 112 million consumers reported shopping at small businesses on Small Business Saturday last year, a 13% increase from 2015, according to American Express. Additionally, it claimed 135 million social media engagements in support of Small Business Saturday in 2016, up from 85 million in 2015.
The definition of Black Friday has expanded, leading to some disparities over its relative success. The National Retail Foundation talks about sales over the “Thanksgiving weekend.” Last year, according to its analysis, average spending per person … totaled $289.19, down slightly from $299.60 [in 2015]. With an average of $214.13 specifically going toward gifts or 74% of total purchases.”
But Black Friday sales on Black Friday itself apparently have been declining more precipitously. In his “No BS Marketing Weekly” podcast last week, MASSolutions president Dave Mastovich claims the number of people shopping on Black Friday has declined 28% over the past two years. Consumers want to shop with their heads and their hearts, he says, which is why the messaging of Cyber Monday, Green Monday, and Small Business Saturday resonates with shoppers under age 40.
“The big take away here is that If retailers don’t adapt to cultural, political, and emotional trends that motivate consumers, then their business will wither,” according to the podcast’s summary.
They also need to be attuned to the sentiments of both employees and customers, of course.
“Retailers staying closed on Thanksgiving report they're doing it to let their employees spend the holiday with family and friends. BestBlackFriday.com, which is keeping a list of retailers closed on Thanksgiving, has found that opening on Thanksgiving isn't all that popular with consumers. In a survey of more than 500 Americans conducted in late September, 57% of respondents didn't like the idea of stores opening on Thanksgiving,” writes Marcia Pledger for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
But those malls aren’t dead yet.
“A NRF study found that 57% of shoppers will shop at a department store, 54% at a discount store, 46% at a grocery store/supermarket and 35% at clothing or accessories stores. The survey found 27% plan to visit an electronics store, 25% a small or local business, and 18% will go to a crafts or fabrics store,” Pledger continues.