Story By: Megan Combe
While Small Business Saturday is growing in popularity and gaining support from businesses and the public, it has a long way to go before it makes a large impact on small businesses across America.
American Express OPEN, a division of American Express that caters to small businesses, began the idea for Small Business Saturday in 2010. It falls on the day after Black Friday, and two days prior to Cyber Monday, which is one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.
While many large businesses rely on Black Friday to make up their losses from the rest of the year, the idea of Small Business Saturday is not to have major sales; it is to get people into the small business community who normally wouldn’t be there.
According to Shelly Simpson of Apt. 202, a boutique in the 9th and 9th district of downtown Salt Lake City, it helps small businesses “bring in clients that (they) could potentially keep year round.”
The idea has grown steadily and quickly. American Express has a Facebook page dedicated to the event, and has accumulated over 2.5 million “likes” in the past two years.
“Social media and other online outlets seem to have been huge for small businesses in general, especially on Small Business Saturday,” said Carlee Beyer, a self-proclaimed “small business shopaholic.” Beyer said that she “enjoyed finding new mom and pop stores around the Salt Lake Valley.”
In October 2011, American Express and Civic Economics published their findings in a study of market trends in “The American Express OPEN Independent Retail Index.” It examined the successes of small businesses in 15 major U.S. cities over a twenty year time period. The research concluded that close to half of all retail shopping and approximately 64 percent of eating and drinking establishments take place at small businesses.
This year, American Express teamed up with other large-names such as Google, Twitter, and YourBuzz, to create a free online toolkit for small business owners. The kit included:
• $100 in free Facebook advertising to the first 10,000 business owners who signed up.
• A downloadable display for business owners to advertise with, and customizable email templates to help raise awareness.
• A “Follow” button for small business websites, that enables those who visit the website to follow the small businesses twitter posts.
• A tool to create free, professional online videos about a small business, powered by Google and American Express.
• $100 credit for LinkedIn ads and $100 in Facebook advertising credits for up to 6,500 business owners, powered by YourBuzz.
This online toolkit was created in an attempt to help small businesses attract an even larger crowd than the year prior. According to studies conducted by American Express, business owners saw a 28 percent increase in sales on the first Small Business Saturday in 2010, when compared to the same day in 2009. Many small businesses in the Salt Lake Valley agreed that while Small Business Saturday is helpful in bringing in new clientele, it does not bolster sales as significantly as they hope it one day may.
Simpson expressed that the community and business location are often key to success in small businesses. “(Small Business Saturday) brought in a lot of new business, but it also brought in a lot of our regular customers who really wanted to show that they were supporting their favorite small businesses.”
Pauline Sargetakis, Owner of Precocious K Boutique in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City, expressed similar ideas. “It’s better if a lot of small businesses ban together. I think this neighborhood will do it in the next couple of years; we are just barely creating our business district.”
With all of the changes that have been made in the past two years to promote Small Business Saturday, business owners hope that it will soon become a staple in the Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience.