Sales Surge on Small Business Saturday
Gift retailers cash in on second annual event which spurred an estimated 103 million Americans to shop at independently owned businesses.
Elizabeth Sullivan was ready. In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, November 26, the co-owner of Lady Ashley Designs in Temple Terrace, FL, had teamed up with her shopping center owner and other tenants to create a “Winter Fest” event at the property. Santa was ready; so were in-store promotions and an inflatable bounce house. Lady Ashley Designs promoted the significance of Small Business Saturday through email blasts and newsletters. The stage was all set for a successful day—and what a success it was!
Lady Ashley Designs doubled its store sales on the Saturday after Thanksgiving from the year prior. In 2010, Lady Ashley Designs hosted a visit with Santa to help draw customers to its store on the holiday weekend. “This year it was much bigger, because we got the landlord involved,” says Elizabeth Sullivan, who co-owns the store with her husband George. The store also tied the national campaign into its own sales promotion, offering a 30 to 50% discount on everything in the store.
Independent retailers like Sullivan are grabbing a bigger piece of consumers’ holiday shopping dollars thanks in large part to the growing popularity of Small Business Saturday, a national campaign that encourages people to “Shop Small” at local stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving—one of the busiest shopping days of the year. “This initiative has helped small businesses on so many levels,” says Patricia Norins, publisher of GIFT SHOP magazine and a spokesperson and advisor to Small Business Saturday. Foremost, it trained consumer attention to the importance of shopping small. “When consumers shop small, they are actually helping to boost their local economy,” Norins points out. In 2011, Small Business Saturday spurred a whopping 103 million Americans to shop at independently owned businesses and awareness of the campaign rose to 65 percent in 2011 as compared to 37 percent in 2010.
American Express first launched the Small Business Saturday program in 2010, and in 2011 the credit card company was joined by more than 230 organizations such as FedEx and Facebook who also signed up as program sponsors. In addition to a very robust advertising campaign that helped to spread the word at the consumer level, there was widespread media coverage and retailers initiated their own grassroots marketing campaigns that complemented the program. Promotional highlights included television commercials and a Small Business Saturday Facebook page that drew more than 2.7 million fans. The campaign also encouraged businesses to take advantage of a small business tool kit that included information and templates for emarketing, in-store signage and YouTube videos among other items.
American Express offered its own incentive, giving thousands of cardholders a $25 credit incentive for spending $25 at any small business in their community or online.
The Small Business Saturday program really drives home the importance of shopping local throughout the entire year. Strong local businesses can have a powerful impact on the surrounding community in terms of both job creation and higher property values. “It behooves a community to shop at those stores to ensure their existence, not only for the benefit to real estate, but also because those businesses are creating jobs,” Norins says.
A recent study by American Express revealed that neighborhoods with thriving independent businesses saw home values outperform citywide markets by 50 percent. Those same neighborhoods also benefitted from strong hiring at small, independently owned businesses. The research was based on the performance of independently owned retail and eating and drinking establishments in 27 neighborhoods located within 15 of the largest U.S. cities over the past 14 years.
Traditionally, shoppers use Thanksgiving weekend to get the bulk of their holiday shopping done. Especially in this economy, many families have a pre-determined holiday budget. “So it is important that small businesses grab their piece of the pie over the holiday weekend,” says Norins. Competing against the multi-million Black Friday advertising campaigns and promotions of larger retailers and big box stores can be a David and Goliath challenge for independent retailers. “What [the Small Business Saturday] initiative has done is brought consumer awareness about the importance of shopping locally, and really helped to level the playing field against the big box stores,” Norins adds.