Small Business Saturday is seemingly the rosiest shopping holiday we've got this holiday weekend. Everyone loves to "love local" and America is leading the way with 91% of us feeling loving towards small business this year. Small businesses are responsible for the culture that defines our cities. The restaurants, the boutiques and clothing stores, coffee shops and bars, even the service providers bring their personality to work. Having a day devoted to spending holiday dollars in their stores is important. And by and large, Small Business Saturday is a success. Store owners in some cases report up to doubling traffic levels across the weekend with peaks in traffic hitting on the Saturday before the weekend winds down, last year alone the NFIB reported independent merchants saw record Saturday sales with consumer spending close to $5.7 billion.
But is it really enough to have one day a year dedicated to small businesses? Is this really where they will find the help they need to survive against the big brand takeover of America's cities? Is the marketing and hype much more impressive than the actual outcome for those really involved - the small business owners.
Small Business Saturday began in 2010 shifting the focus of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday to give small businesses a boost during the busiest time of the year. Amex a less used credit card service within the small business world sponsored and promoted the shopping day and offered benefits like marketing collateral, ads on Facebook, and branded shopping bags for small businesses who utilized Amex as a service and participated in the day.
Even though the shopping day is a well-known part of the busiest shopping week of the year, it's not a guaranteed business-driver. Only 22.3% of those planning to go shopping on Saturday have small business intentions. The sentiment that the day doesn't really live up to it's hype nor help is echoed by actual small business retailers, "I do technically participate in Small Business Saturday, but I am a small business every day!" said Sydney Pfaff of the popular Legion boutique in San Francisco. "Encouraging people to shop small just one day out of the year does nothing to help my business grow. People should shop small every day of the year. I am just one person running one small shop and it's tough to stay afloat when you're competing against big companies, especially when the have super sales. If people support small businesses just one day a year, that's not enough to keep them open."
Rohit Prakash, the CEO and founder of Townsquared, a private network for small business to connect and share information, echoed the one-hit wonder shopping day and suggested that small business owners are taking the long term challenge into their own hands. "By connecting and making connections specifically where businesses form revenue focused partnerships on platforms like ours, they're getting new customers and learning better business practices all at once. Within the neighborhood and across the city, connecting with other businesses helps build real growth, sustainability, and strength against the big brands. Plaid Friday is a great example of it that started in Oakland and is now countrywide appearing in areas like Minneapolis, Maine, Portland, and St. Paul ."
Estimates pin the total amount of holiday shopping around $630 Billion over November and December with $105 Billion coming from online sales alone. But, very little of that is for headed for local businesses on the back of Small Business Saturday. Luckily the locals are finding their own innovative ways to build the partnerships they need to get their fair share. But, we all need to do our part throughout the year. Next time you need a coffee, walk the one block further to your local coffee shop, or next time you want some new clothes, check out your local boutiques where the owners have gone on the buying trips and curated their selection with the local community in mind.
For every $100 we spend at a big box or chain, only about $14 stays in the neighborhood, but when you shop at a local store, $45 stays in the community. Small businesses are fueling our communities, making them better, stronger, more happy places--all year long. Make them part of your year long shopping, not just one Saturday a year.
Here's to a strong Small Business Saturday today!