Five Ways to Make the Most of Small Business Saturday

November 21, 2016, 7:00 PM UTC
Small Business Saturday Night
Craig Barritt Getty Images for Small Business

American Express may have invented Small Business Saturday as a shopping holiday in 2010, but it has evolved into a “shop local” movement that gives retailers nationwide a considerable sales lift.

Not only has Congress officially sanctioned November 26 as a national day, but in 2015, about 95 million shoppers showed up at small businesses to spend about $16 billion on Small Business Saturday. And retailers are expecting a strong turnout in 2016 as well.

While American Express still provides important marketing assistance for Small Business Saturday, it has taken more of a backseat role in recent years. More than 4,000 organizing small business owners around the country have taken the lead on gathering other local shop owners to participate in the day. Over 1 million small businesses are expected to participate this year.

If you plan to get involved this year, here are five things you can do to make sure you get the most out of the day.

1. Use social media to promote the day

Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to educate your customers about the benefits of shopping at local retailers and the positive economic impact that it can have on the region. Those who participate tend to put up signs, posters, and even roll out doormats announcing the day. (American Express provides templates for many of these.) Some businesses, like Merz Apothecary, a retailer of high-end health and body care products in Chicago, create special windows encouraging consumers to shop local. Sharing information about the day on social media is also a good tactic, with numerous retailers turning to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Cliché Noe Gifts + Home, of San Francisco, promotes the day with a small business selfie, which owner Dani Sheehan-Meyer takes with other shop owners in the neighborhood and posts on Instagram a few days before the event.

2. Increase staffing

Store owners in some cities report sales increases between 20% and 100% compared to comparable non-holiday Saturdays. Green Apple Books of San Francisco adds 4 extra workers to its two stores to handle the uptick. Most small retailers are already flush with inventory, given that SBS follows Black Friday and comes right before the Christmas buying season. But if you haven’t stocked up, remember, foot traffic is likely to be higher. “It’s one of the ten best sales days of the year,” says Anthony Qaiyum, president and co-owner of Merz, who adds six extra workers to help out on Small Business Saturday.

3. Give your customers something extra

Store owners don’t want to take a loss for the day by discounting items. Instead, they recommend giving customers something extra with their purchases. Green Apple Books gives away store-branded totes, prints made by local artists, and audio books from Merz gives the first 100 customers sampler packs of its high-end fragrances and creams.

4. Host in-store events

Cliché Noe Gifts serves free champagne to encourage schmoozing. Green Apple features readings and has local illustrators sit down to make bookmarks with customers. Merz sets up stations to demonstrate its beauty products. “Everybody goes, ‘ooh’ when you bring out the champagne flutes,” says Sheehan-Meyer. “It is very popular.”

5. Show your appreciation, and make it fun

Let your customers know how important they are to you. They are, after all, the lifeblood of your enterprise. “I make sure that my staff is aware of the day, and make sure they are extra grateful, and mention it,” says Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple.

Says Ann Cantrell, owner of Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store in Brooklyn, New York: “It’s about celebrating community and coming together and trying to enjoy the process, rather than going to the mall.”