Lessons Learned from Small Business Saturday

When we think of holiday shopping, our minds typically envision shoppers running rampant up and down aisles of mega-stores and scouring shelves for the best deals. But more and more each year, shoppers are supporting Black Friday’s quieter and more respectable sister, Small Business Saturday.

The Resurgence of Shopping Local

In the past, people shopped locally because mom-and-pop shops—which are independent, small businesses—were the only stores available. But with the rise of big-box stores and luxury came the fall of shopping local.

Small Business Saturday, though, is relatively new and has gained traction the last few years. American Express launched it in 2010 to encourage shoppers to support local businesses and lead to the rebirth of shopping local. Nearly three-quarters of US consumers know about Small Business Saturday.


According to the 2017 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, four in 10 American adults—that’s 43% of the population—either shopped or dined small on the day.


Supporting small businesses goes far beyond Small Business Saturday. Jump on Facebook or Pinterest, and you’ll find hundreds of pro-local shopping quotes, from “friends don’t let friends shop chain stores” to “you can’t buy happiness but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same.”

Thanks to the internet, mom-and-pop shops are thriving, as online storefronts make it possible for small businesses to cut back on overhead costs and social media offers a less expensive advertising route.

Additionally, more people are becoming aware of the benefits of shopping local. Beyond having the opportunity to purchase more unique products and enjoying a more personalized shopping experience, shopping local is economically beneficial.

Small businesses play a key role in helping communities thrive. For every $100 spent at a local business, $68 goes back to the local economy, compared to $43 given back for every $100 spent at a national chain. Additionally, shopping local creates more jobs in the community, rather than in factories across the globe, and reduces environmental impact, as products don’t have to ship across the country to customers.

Millennials’ Love for Shopping Local

Millennials are the largest cohort in the country, making up more than one-quarter of the US population, and they, more than other generations, like to shop locally. Due to their buying power, they’ve transformed retail patterns, with customers now expecting personalized shopping experiences and social interactions with the brand.

Today’s shoppers care just as much about the shopping experience as the items they purchase. Millennials desire a stronger connection to the products and services they buy, and they also like to root for the underdog and give back to their local economies.

Small businesses can capitalize on this and appeal to millennials since small retailers can offer a more personal shopping experience and more unique offerings that large companies can’t replicate. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take the time to talk to customers and get to know them.

One small-business owner shared, “When customers come into the shop, we try to call them by name. Our customers book appointments for their dogs to get groomed, so we have all their information. We track their name, their dog’s name, and their dog’s grooming history. The trick is getting clerks to look at the card and talk to the customer by name. Not all people are comfortable with this type of personal connection, but we seek out employees who are.”

Customers appreciate being acknowledged and are more likely to turn into a repeat customer and refer friends if they feel connected to a business. Something as small as using their first name can turn a one-time shopper into a loyal customer.

Additionally, small businesses can offer customers a more comfortable shopping environment. Superstores can feel sterile and repetitive, and the long checkout lines can deter shoppers. Small businesses can create a cozier feel through warm lighting, décor, and unique layouts that differ from the standard symmetrical aisles of chain stores. Promoting locally crafted products at the front of the store can also increase foot traffic—especially around the holidays when shoppers seek unique, high-quality pieces to gift loved ones.

Lastly, most large businesses can’t beat the customer service of small businesses. Making a few minor changes—such as an extended return time frame, loyalty punch cards, and referral discount programs—can drive repeat business and customer loyalty.


2017 Insights: Most Visited Small Businesses

·        Pet stores: Shoppers in Colorado, Hawaii, and Vermont reported pet stores as the type of small business frequented the most

·        Bakeries: Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York shoppers reported visiting a bakery the most

·        Spas and salons: Shoppers in Georgia, Idaho, Texas reported visiting spas, nail salons or hair salons the most.


Shopping beyond Small Business Saturday

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Small Business Saturday, it’s that the growth in shopping local goes far beyond the day after Black Friday.

Even if consumers don’t shop on the actual day, the publicity of Small Business Saturday still heightens awareness, and customers will be more likely to spend more money at small businesses throughout the year. And a simple reminder through social media or in-store collateral about the benefits of shopping local can make a big difference in year-round shopping.

Another small-business owner shared, “We leave our Small Business Saturday marketing materials, like door clings, up all year round. No harm in reminding customers to buy local whenever we can.”

Small businesses can benefit from these evolving shopping trends by fulfilling shoppers’ desire for a personalized experience during both the holiday season and throughout the year. This season, evaluate opportunities to increase customer satisfaction and promote the benefits of shopping local. Your soon-to-be repeat customers will thank you.



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