“Small Business Saturday is really a day to celebrate everything we love about small businesses — they’re the familiar face across the counter and they’re really what make communities vibrant,” said Mary Ann Reilly, senior vice president at American Express OPEN. “The idea was to sandwich it between Black Friday and [unofficial online shopping day] Cyber Monday to give it a rightful place in the kick-off to holiday spending.”
A number of other big businesses have also pitched in. YouTube is providing a geo-coded hosting platform on which small business owners can create videos about their shops. FedEx gave $25 American Express gift cards to the first 30,000 customers who liked their Facebook page on November 1. Facebook serves as the hub for the initiative, offering a trove of marketing tips for merchants and ways to “get involved” for customers at facebook.com/shopsmall. Facebook and AmEx gave away free $100 Facebook ads to 10,000 businesses, and the number of people who “liked” the page doubled since last year, to 2.4 million.
“Facebook presents a great opportunity for businesses to create an ongoing two-way relationship with consumers,” said David Fischer, Facebook’s vice president of advertising and global operations. “Businesses have the ability to leverage those connections every day, not just on Small Business Saturday.
Freebies, music and hot cider
The holidays aren’t always as flush for smaller shops as they are for large retailers in part because they’re frequently positioned outside of shopping malls, thus limiting their ability to ride on the coat-tails of big box stores with red-tag sales.
“Normally when people think about big sales, they run out to malls,” said Lisa Duperier of Washington’s Adams Morgan Main Street business group.
To combat that effect, AmEx is encouraging small retailers to hold events and offer promotions on Small Business Saturday, touting the allure of specialty gifts that larger stores may not have.
In Adams Morgan, Duperier said groups of local shops will set up displays with themes like “looking good in wintertime.” One store, Turquoise Jewelry Boutique, is giving away free earrings to anyone who spends $26 — in honor of the date, of course. In SoHo, New York, a meanswear boutique called Palmer Trading Company is inviting an acoustic guitar player and giving out hot cider.
“It’s a different kind of shopping,” Duperier said. “Small Business Saturday encourages people to get out and walk, shop and eat in a neighborhood setting.”