Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States (U.S.), has long been recognized as the busiest shopping day of the year. Another day that has grown in popularity in recent years is Small Business Saturday.
American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage people to support small, local businesses. By 2011, the U.S. Senate resolved unanimous support for the day, prompting even the President to acknowledge his support. This year, participating business had access to extensive marketing resources.
Small businesses could create personalized, printable signage, digital banners, and email templates for Small Business Saturday. They also were able to download articles that aided in their promotional efforts. FedEx shipped Small Business Saturday merchandise kits free of charge to participating businesses, and even printed select materials to defray associated costs.
Unfortunately for the 28 million American small businesses, Small Businesses Saturday is not available to everyone. American Express limits participation to businesses located within the U.S. that have between 1-25 locations. Also, these businesses must meet American Express annual charge volume requirements. Additionally, businesses must accept American Express cards to participate.
Businesses that do participate must meet stringent guidelines. These businesses must qualify for placement on the Small Business online directory. Those that do qualify are eligible to be recommended in American Express marketing to card members. However, the recommendations occur through target marketing based on cardholder spending. Further, participating businesses have to apply for free online ads, and they might incur additional costs for printing marketing materials. A flattering case study about the day indicates that the financial services company has gained substantial awareness. The benefit of Small Business Saturday could be greater for American Express than the very companies it is intended to celebrate.
Small businesses have historically been hardest hit when big box retailers enter a new marketplace, yet these family-owned, and/or mom-and-pop shops are also the economic drivers for rebuilding once-thriving town squares. One would hope that businesses that either cannot be or choose not to be official participants in Small Business Saturday have some carryover foot traffic. It is unknown how much consumer business occurs outside the umbrella of designated retailers on Small Business Saturday.
Many an article has been written about the deluge of awareness days. (Cyber Monday and to a lesser extent, Giving Tuesday, are among those gaining popularity in the U.S.). But these drivers of the local economy are well past their due. Small businesses account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales.
It shouldn’t take an annual day to recognize the significance of small businesses to the U.S. marketplace.
–Cheryl Ann Lambert, Ph.D.