The Small Business Saturday® celebration and Shop Small slogan are great for small business and most closely identified with founding partner American Express. This brings much-appreciated attention to local merchants and independent small businesses.
- In the US, it falls right after Black Friday (when customers rush big box stores for well-publicized deals) and before Cyber Monday (when people go back to work but spend the day shopping online for well-publicized deals).
- In the UK, it’s the first Saturday in December and also supported by American Express.
- In Canada, it’s in late October after Canada’s Thanksgiving celebration, and is supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.
Last year, my own business participated, giving away Shop Small merchandise provided by American Express and other sponsors. This year, I signed up to be an organizer for my town and distributed the Amex-provided items to a dozen businesses in Alva, Oklahoma. Together we’re planning on making more of the event by:
- Coordinating with the Chamber of Commerce’s “open house” shopping event that happens on Small Business Saturday
- Promoting each other’s gift items online throughout December
In the national media, all sorts of articles are appearing and pundits are piling on with tips on how to make the most of Small Business Saturday. That’s good in that we have a lot of attention to work with. It’s bad in that the event is only one day and far from the best day for small towns. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is a popular day for rural families to pile into the car or SUV and head to the big city to shop. So all the small town promotion in the world won’t capture customers who already left town for the day.
What small towns can do on Small Business Saturday
What kind of local promotions make sense for small towns on Small Business Saturday?
1. Create excitement with events and happenings that give people a reason to stay in town to shop.
Host some live music or an art display. Feature local foods or regional treats. Tie in with anything your chamber is planning. Get together with other stores and brainstorm. Make it an event and make it worth staying for.
2. Promote an alternative to the big-city shopping trip: The small town shopping tour.
Band together with a nearby town or two for a tour that ties together all your amazing stores. Together you have as much to do as the big city, but in a more enjoyable setting. Your stores are more friendly, more personal and more fun. Show people that they can spend less time fighting traffic and more time enjoying time together.
3. Present a unified front with coordinated displays and themes.
When several stores work together on window displays, you can all end up with more memorable results. Tie it together with a shared logo or slogan that is used by everyone. Start a display in one business, then continue it in the next. Tell a story in parts. Have fun with it and make it clear you’re working together.
Even better than Shop Small?
Next week I’ll profile alternative programs. These are projects you can join in addition to Shop Small to gain more attention and more sales throughout the holiday season, not just that one day when too many people were out of town. I’ll profile Shift Your Shopping and Shop For Good. If you know of other projects I need to share, let me know by email or leave a comment.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.