Small Business Saturday—on November 30, 2013—is a chance for small and independently owned businesses to promote the benefits of shopping locally and supporting the local business community. While many small retailers who participate see an uptick in business automatically due to nationwide promotions of the event, experts say there are ways for businesses to maximize the impact.
“It’s a day to celebrate small-business owners,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded, a Chicago company that consults and provides resources to independent retailers. “They need to look at Small Business Saturday as an opportunity to generate more foot traffic in their stores, strengthen customer loyalty and, ultimately, increase sales."
Leinbach Reyhle recommends that merchants participating in Small Business Saturday reach out to the local media and bloggers to explain the significance of the day and shopping locally, as well as to promote the statement credit that American Express offers shoppers that day. She also recommends that businesses stamp a “save-the-date” on receipts a few weeks before, or hand out brochures that remind customers of the date of the event.
Many of the businesses that see the greatest sales increase from Small Business Saturday, she adds, often throw in other promotions, partner with other small businesses in their community and even host events in their stores that ultimately help the business.
Distinctive Gardens, a garden center in Dixon, Illinois, has participated in Small Business Saturday since 2011, says co-owner Lisa Higby LeFevre. The store partners with about three dozen other independently owned retailers in Illinois’ Sauk Valley region—three towns including Dixon with a total population around 50,000—to promote the day.
After seeing the success of Small Business Saturday in 2011, the retailers decided to form Sauk Valley Shop Small, an organization tied to the nationwide Shop Small campaign that promotes the benefits of shopping locally year-round and keeping consumer dollars in the community.
The group puts out a map it gives to local residents and publishes in the local newspaper that shows which retailers are participating in Small Business Saturday. The map has been so useful, Higby LeFevre says, that this year they plan to distribute it more widely through local tourism officials.
Each store involved in Sauk Valley Shop Small typically takes a three-pronged approach to increasing traffic on Small Business Saturday:
- It offers a special deal or discount
- It hosts an event in store on the day
- It offers “button” deals or free gifts to customers who wear buttons with the “Sauk Valley Shop Small” logo.
This year, for instance, Distinctive Gardens plans to give Small Business Saturday shoppers a 50 percent discount on its handmade holiday wreaths and bring in local artisans to sell their crafts. It will also give out a free gift and cookies to shoppers who wear their buttons.
The Sauk Valley Shop Small retailers also have a Facebook page where they engage local residents on the benefits of shopping small year-round, as well as promoting their deals on Small Business Saturday. A private Facebook group is also used by the retailers to discuss how effective their shop-small initiatives have been and to share ideas and success stories around how to better promote Small Business Saturday.
Retailers who have actively participated in the day are surveyed to see how well they do—and their recent surveys suggest their community awareness efforts and Small Business Saturday cooperation have paid off. Many retailers, Higby LeFevre says, have seen year-over-year sales increase more than 50 percent on the event day in the first year they participate in Small Business Saturday, as well as sales growth each year as they do more to promote it and general awareness of the day grows. At Distinctive Gardens, sales were up 50 percent year-over-year on the day of Small Business Saturday and in 2012, they climbed 80 percent more.
The Sauk Valley’s community effort makes it much easier for small businesses to get the word out about Small Business Saturday and motivate residents to shop at the local businesses on that day, Higby LeFevre says. “It really works to empower people to do something,” she explains. “I think there are a lot of people who are waiting to be motivated and galvanized to shop small. We have customers who come up and say, ‘we’re coming to support you.’”
She has also begun networking with other community efforts around the country through American Express’s Shop Small Neighborhood Mightybell site, as well as using the online resources to learn other ways they might better promote the day. One idea she likes, courtesy of Detroit: Trying to get local officials to proclaim the Saturday after Black Friday as “Small Business Saturday.” The Sauk Valley group is now talking with their economic development leaders to try and do the same in their community.
Early-Bird Specials And Email Campaigns
A Chatham, New Jersey, women’s apparel and accessories boutique, d.j. crater, has participated in Small Business Saturday since the event’s first year, 2010. Every year the store has seen increased sales on that day, including a 400 percent year-over-year jump the first year says owner Doris Crater.
Over the years, Crater says she’s learned several strategies that help increase sales on that day. In 2010, she began opening her store at 7 a.m. on Small Business Saturday—three hours earlier than normal—and offering “early-bird specials” to people who shopped before 10 a.m. Opening early gives her a leg up over other stores in her area and she finds many customers appreciate the flexibility to shop early in the morning, before the crowds form later in the day.
“We do huge business between 7 and 10 a.m.," she says. “We have people waiting outside before the store opens."
Before event day, Crater also sends out email campaigns to its customers reminding them of Small Business Saturday, as well as providing the link where they can sign up to receive the American Express statement credit, if they aren’t already signed up.
The store also serves refreshments on Small Business Saturday and gives out free gifts with every purchase. This year, for example, it plans to give buyers a complimentary pair of earrings, worth $24, Crater says.
In 2010, Crater says she saw a $10,000 sales increase on Small Business Saturday compared to the same Saturday in 2009—and every year since, sales have kept climbing that day.
She credits her sales success on Small Business Saturday both to her own efforts to promote the event as well as the national promotions and Shop Small campaign. “I think people are becoming more and more aware that they need to shop small,” Crater says. “I had a few people last year who said 'I’m going to go to every small business in Chatham and make a purchase.'”
Read more articles on Small Business Saturday.