Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What Is Small Business Saturday? How AmEx's Post-Recession Initiative Found Its Place in the Thanksgiving Retail Rush - Fortune

What Is Small Business Saturday? How AmEx's Post-Recession Initiative Found Its Place in the Thanksgiving Retail Rush - Fortune


What Is Small Business Saturday? How AmEx's Post-Recession Initiative Found Its Place in the Thanksgiving Retail Rush - Fortune

Posted: 23 Nov 2018 12:00 AM PST

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, major U.S. retailers have succeeded in driving consumption around the holidays by offering irresistible deals and discounts. But since 2010, there's been another contender in the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush: small businesses.

In the aftermath of the recession, American Express launched Small Business Saturday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving as a way to encourage Americans to shop at local retailers. It didn't take long to convince the federal government of the idea's legs. One year later, the Senate passed a resolution supporting the holiday, and businesses across the country joined the movement.

Initially, the day offered incentives to American Express cardholders, giving them a $25 credit to their statement to use toward purchases at small shops. By 2013, that reward dropped to $10, and in 2015 the financial incentive was scrapped entirely. In 2016, the company offered cardholders double credit points instead.

AmEx told Fortune that there will not be a cardholder offer for Small Business Saturday this year. "The statement credit offer started off as a way to help incentivize consumers to shop at local businesses," a spokeswoman said. "These efforts helped create an annual event and occasion that has taken root in neighborhoods across the U.S."

As part of the day, American Express created the concept of Neighborhood Champions, which are "business associations, state and local chambers of commerce, small businesses, and other community organizers" who are responsible for rallying the community around the day. According to American Express data, the number of Neighborhood Champions has grown from 1,400 in 2013, to 7,200 across all 50 states in 2017.

U.S. President Barack Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, plugged Small Business Saturday in 2014 with a visit to a local bookstore in Washington, D.C. (

Pool Getty Images)

Participating businesses are eligible to receive materials and resources free of charge from American Express to help drive business on the day and year round. AmEx also lets businesses opt into being included in shopping recommendations that are emailed to American Express cardholders. That perk encourages business to accept American Express credit cards since only outlets that do so are eligible for inclusion.

And efforts appear to have paid off. American Express estimates that American consumers have spent $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants since Small Business Saturday was launched.

'Shop Small' has become a tagline of Small Business Saturdy. (Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

The initiative has gone international. The company launched a similar effort in the U.K. in 2013. Also called Small Business Saturday, American Express cardholders who spend £10 or more on their card in a single transaction at a participating store will receive a credit of £5.

This story has been updated to include a statement from AmEx.

Small Business Saturday isn't a novelty anymore – independent retailers depend on it - CNBC

Posted: 23 Nov 2018 12:00 AM PST

For Mackenzi Farquer, Small Business Saturday is a big deal.

The owner of Queens, New York-based Lockwood gift shop, which sells kitchenware, clothing and paper goods, says there's often barely room to stand in her locations on the retail holiday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

"It's our busiest day of the year," Farquer says. "I think people in this neighborhood especially are trained to know that this the day to come out and shop at small businesses. They are not only coming for holiday shopping, they also want to be here to support us."

And those shoppers show their support in a big way — that day alone accounts for some 8 percent of Lockwood's overall holiday sales. "It's at a fever pitch and growing every year," she says.

Small Business Saturday, now in its ninth year, is sponsored by American Express and encourages consumers to get out and shop "small" supporting local retailers and restaurants in person and online. Last year, nearly $13 billion was spent on that day alone, a slight dip from 2016.

This year, data from Amex and the National Federation of Independent Business finds some 83 percent of consumers say they plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping at a small independently owned retailer or restaurant either in person, or online. Nearly 6 in 10 consumers nationwide say they are aware of the shopping holiday, and among them, 80 percent plan to shop at independent retailers that day.

John Lund/Marc Romanelli | Getty Images

Meanwhile, data from CNBC and SurveyMonkey's Small Business Saturday poll finds some 44 percent of consumers say they will patronize a small business on the day this year, up slightly from 2017, and 58 percent say they will shop in person. Overall this season, 28 percent said they will spend less while 14 percent said they will spend more.

This year, American Express has also expanded the holiday to Puerto Rico for the first time and is sponsoring events including popup shops with Etsy, campaigns to support female-owned businesses and more.

"Small Business Saturday is a great chance to drive awareness and keep small businesses top of mind," said Raina Moskowitz, Etsy's SVP of people, strategy and services. "Mass retailers play a great role in convenience and price, but when you shop from a small business, there is a story behind what you are buying. so it's more personal and thoughtful, especially for the holiday season."

Small business owners like Mackenzie Farquer are gearing up for Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to patronize small, local retailers.

Kate Rogers | CNBC

Heather Parker sells dog bow ties, leashes and other gifts online and at her shop Crew LaLa in Charleston, South Carolina. It's her fifth year participating in Small Business Saturday, and each year sales have doubled, Parker said. Last year, the day accounted for 12 percent of the company's overall holiday season sales, and even brought in new, repeat customers.

"Last year 40 percent of our customers from Small Business Saturday were first-time customers," Parker said. "Of that 40 percent, 65 percent actually turned into returning customers."

The store even has to bring in extra employees for the weekend and the rest of the holiday season.

"We have to beef up for it because we get such a response from Small Business Saturday," Parker said. "Having a day that really shows support … is really inspiring. It helps us and kind of fuels us for the rest of the year."

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