Small Business Saturday is one of the busiest shopping holidays of the year.
Last year, Small Business Saturday spending reached a record high, with $23.3 billion in US consumer spending. That’s a lot of cash going around your local community.
But most retailers overlook it, running the same marketing playbook as they would for any other event during the year. But Small Business Saturday is a big day, and is equally as exciting for shoppers as the more popular shopping holidays.
As a retailer, you want to take advantage of the hype and create specific promotions for Small Business Saturday. That way, you can outpace competitors and earn more sales.
In this post, we’ll look at the history of Small Business Saturday and tips for how you can take advantage of it today.
What is Small Business Saturday?
Small Business Saturday celebrates small businesses’ contributions to the community and economy. Since 2010, Small Business Saturday has been observed annually in the United States on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
When is Small Business Saturday?
Small Business Saturday this year falls on November 25, 2023.
History of Small Business Saturday
November 27, 2010, marked the first Small Business Saturday. The holiday shopping experience was founded by American Express in response to the 2008 recession. The goal was to encourage people to shop at small businesses and boost the economy.
Small Business Saturday has been a success since it started. In 2011, it brought in over 100 million shoppers and officially partnered with the Small Business Association (SBA). Several countries worldwide have also celebrated, including the UK, Ireland, Australia, and Canada.
American Express also gives cardholders rewards for shopping local on Small Business Saturday. In 2021, the brand gave all American Express Card Members up to $50 in statement credits for purchases at small businesses.
Tips for Small Business Saturday
1. Start planning early
Starting to plan early for Small Business Saturday is critical. It allows you to take advantage of all the marketing opportunities available, increasing brand awareness and connecting you with local shoppers.
Terri-Lynn Woodhouse, owner of One Earth, an all-natural skin care brand, says, “Don’t let Small Business Saturday sneak up on you! Create a strategy and plan with defined timelines and goals.”
Some things to plan for include:
- Where will you promote your business? You can run campaigns on social media, email, through ads, or by partnering with your favorite local businesses.
- How can you make your store more appealing? Consider if you’ll run special promotions, hold an in-store event, or provide free samples and refreshments.
David Joseph, marketing manager at My Enamel Pins, agrees. “Make sure your shop or office is decorated festively, and you have plenty of small gifts or samples to hand out,” he says. “And lastly, be sure to spread the word about Small Business Saturday in advance, so everyone knows about the amazing deals your small business will offer.”
Planning ahead and making your store a more appealing destination can help ensure that you have a successful Small Business Saturday.
2. Get on the American Express Shop Small Map
If you accept American Express, add your store to the American Express Shop Small Map. It’s similar to a Google My Business listing and can drive potential customers your way. American Express can also recommend your business through its target marketing campaigns.
For example, say a shopper is looking for a local boutique store in the Bay Area. They can browse the Shop Small Map to find a local business or search by the following categories:
- Business services
🎯Action: Add or update your listing today. You can also download customizable marketing materials to encourage customers to shop small. American Express offers creation tools and templates to design custom social media posts, posters, and more.
3. Do something special
Small Business Saturday is an important holiday shopping event. It’s smart to do something to commemorate it and attract more local customers. “Although Small Business Saturday is a one-day event, a business should make it a weekend-long campaign,” says Jeanel Alvarado, Retail Expert at RetailBoss.
Think of a memorable event that shoppers won’t want to miss. Some ideas include:
- Special deals
- Kid-friendly activities
- Food samplings
- Local performers or artisans
- Donations to local charities
- Shop and sip events
- Bringing a DJ into the store
“A best practice to prepare for upcoming events is to let customers know in advance the type of promotions or deals, and start the deals on Friday throughout the entire weekend, preferably through email and social media,” says Alvarado.
4. Run early sales
Offering early sales is a great way to get people in the door and shopping at your store. It also helps build excitement for Small Business Saturday and helps people plan their shopping.
“Start raising awareness for any deals or promotions you’ll have running a couple of weeks to a month ahead of time,” says Shirlene Kyin, Director of Operations at Soylent.
“It can be helpful to announce new deals weekly as you approach the day to build awareness and hype. Social media campaigns are an excellent way to engage your customers and spread the word that you’ll be participating.”
5. Get your seasonal inventory right
Seasonal inventory refers to products that sell at higher volume during certain times of the year. Managing inventory correctly during Small Business Saturday helps reduce stockouts and saves on storage costs.
“Don’t buy too much and don’t discount too little,” explains Eric Elggren, co-founder of Andar, a handcrafted leather goods brand. “The holiday items you purchase you have to sell out of before the end of the year, so you don’t want to buy too much and be stuck with extra, unsellable inventory after Small Business Saturday. If it’s looking like that’s going to be the case, discount as many items as possible to clear those items out before January.”
Chelsea Cohen, co-founder of SoStocked, an inventory management software brand, agrees. “As a small business, the number one priority for selling more on Small Business Saturday is to make sure the highly anticipated products are in stock,” she says.
“Anticipating what items will sell best and ensuring you stock up on them will help you profit more than ever. If you’ve done this before, you have at least some data to work with, so make sure you stock up on in-demand products and find a way to promote/market them during the event. Working with local small businesses selling online, I’ve seen certain products bring in huge ROI, despite increased marketing spending, for as long as they are in stock.”
Shopify merchants can choose from various trusted inventory management apps in the Shopify App Store. A few examples are:
🎯Action: Find out what products sell best, stock up on them, and don’t be afraid to spend more on marketing if the ROI is great. Get inventory management software to help forecast demand and keep the right inventory in stock.
6. Partner with other local businesses
Another way to get involved in Small Business Saturday is by partnering with local businesses. Are there local businesses that offer products complementary to yours?
Creating partnerships helps you:
- Gain exposure to new audiences
- Share resources with other businesses
- Build customer loyalty
For example, if you sell outdoor sports gear, you could partner with a local brewery to co-host an event. A local boutique shop could partner with a popular restaurant for a pop-up event.
Together, you could:
- Provide discounts for shopping at both businesses
- Promote product bundles
- Organize cross-store events
Partnering with other local businesses is a great way to increase your visibility and show customers you’re invested in the community.
7. Create an email marketing campaign
Small Business Saturday is a great time to use email marketing. By sending targeted emails to your customers, you can tell them about special deals and promotions you’re running, which can boost sales and increase foot traffic.
Shelf Expression, a Shopify merchant based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, likes to send an email sequence to subscribers before the shopping holiday.
CEO Ben Kuhl recommends “sending customers five to six emails in the days leading up to Small Business Saturday to make sure they’re aware of our sales and promotions. This gives them enough time to plan and budget for the purchases they want to make.”
Tattly, a temporary tattoo retailer, uses Small Business Saturday to promote its products in local retail stores. In the email below, Tattly shares the story behind local Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic, and shows off available stock for purchase.
8. Review hours and staffing
Retail store owners should review hours and staffing for Small Business Saturday since it’s a busy shopping day. Shoppers are looking for deals and supporting local businesses. Staffing your store properly will help customers have a positive experience and get the help they need.
Take the following steps to review hours and staffing:
- Consider previous years’ sales data when reviewing your hours and staffing for Small Business Saturday.
- Take note of how many customers visited your store and how long they stayed.
- Decide how many staff you’ll need and what hours you should be open based on that information.
- Communicate your plans to your staff, so everyone is on the same page.
9. Run local marketing campaigns
Local marketing involves attracting local customers and driving them to your retail store. These neighborhood marketing campaigns can be online or offline. They target shoppers within a specific geographic location and bring them into your store.
Christian Collard, the founder of Eastern Outer, a DTC sunglasses brand, uses hyper-local marketing tactics to promote her Small Business Saturday specials. In 2021, the brand generated as many sales as its Black Friday promotions.
Collard uses the following ad strategy:
- Take a photo of the product at a popular, well-recognized local landmark.
- Create Facebook and Instagram ads with a special offer. They use the above photograph as creative.
- Set targeting criteria to anyone within a 50-mile radius of the landmark.
“By targeting hyper-local individuals, these people will respond better to small business ads when they see a landmark they recognize alongside a product they are interested in supporting,” Collard says.
Other ways to promote your business locally are:
- Engaging and selling in local social media groups.
- Investing in signage outside your store.
- Running local SEO campaigns.
- Getting press coverage from the local media.
- Running direct-mail campaigns.
- Posting flyers around the area.
- How to Set Up Google Maps Ads for Beginners
- How to Reach Nearby Shoppers with Google Local Inventory Ads
10. Promote your business on social media
“The best way we find to drive more engagement during Small Business Saturday is through social media,” says Brian Edwards, Ecommerce Manager at Pettifor Edwards, a UK-based beauty brand.
“Many followers will already know the brand, but will need reminding why the small business is the best way to shop for the sake of the community, customer service, and family values,” he adds.
Brian recommends creating an image social post for each major channel with this message, and including the Small Business Saturday campaign logo. He also suggests sharing “a little about the Small Business Saturday campaign, your mission, and your best products,” in your messaging.
There are a few ways to make the most of social media on Small Business Saturday.
- Include a call to action like “Come support your local businesses!” or “Shop small this Saturday!” in your posts.
- Add a hashtag, such as #ShopSmall, to make it easier for people to find and share your post.
- Share photos and videos of your store, products, and staff on social media. This gives customers a glimpse of what they can expect when visiting.
- Encourage customers to share their own photos and videos on your store to create buzz and attract new customers.
11. Offer multiple shipping options
Local shop owners should offer multiple shipping options on Small Business Saturday. Customers can then choose the best shipping method that works for them.
For example, some customers may want items shipped to their homes, while others will want to pick it up in-store. You can ensure that everyone can take advantage of Small Business Saturday by offering multiple shipping options.
Some alternative shipping options are:
- BOPIS (buy online, pickpp in store). Fifty percent of shoppers used BOPIS before the pandemic, and that number has increased since then. BOPIS has become popular because it saves people time and money versus ordering online.
- Local pick up. The customer places an order online and picks it up at a convenient location.
- Local delivery. The customer orders an item online, then you or a team member deliver it to their doorstep.
💡 PRO TIP: Shopify local delivery is a set of flexible tools that let you offer shoppers local delivery options at checkout. Set delivery zones, add pricing conditions for each zone, manage and prepare orders for delivery, and create optimized delivery routes for drivers from Shopify.
Our retail store removes a lot of design restrictions around larger items. With in-store pickup, we can design and sell a series of products that don’t need to ship to California, which helps us be more economical with our order fulfillment for bigger, higher-price-point items.
Increase sales this year for Small Business Saturday
Starting to plan early for Small Business Saturday is essential for small business owners. It’ll help you take advantage of all the marketing opportunities available and drive more foot traffic to your store during the holiday season.
Run an unmissable event, offer early sales, and get on the American Express Shop Small Map and you’ll be well on your way to more sales this holiday shopping season.
Small Business Saturday FAQ
What is the meaning of Small Business Saturday?
Is Small Business Saturday still a thing?
What are the benefits of Small Business Saturday?
- Increased Exposure: Small Business Saturday gives small businesses an additional opportunity to gain exposure and attract new customers.
- Brand Awareness: Small Business Saturday helps build brand awareness of your business and its products or services.
- Improved Customer Relationships: Small Business Saturday gives local businesses the chance to interact with and get to know their customers better.
- Local Economic Boost: Small Business Saturday helps stimulate the local economy by encouraging customers to support their local businesses.
- Increased Revenue: Small Business Saturday gives small businesses the opportunity to increase their sales and generate more revenue.