Small Business Saturday

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Millions of individuals, businesses and communities have embraced and celebrated Small Businesses Saturday® (SBS) since American Express founded the event in 2010. Celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, consumers spent $5.5 billion on the event day last year and organizers expect this year to be an even bigger success. According to Small Business Saturday spokesperson Patricia Norins there's a "tremendous amount of momentum" for the this year's event with more businesses participating and an increased number of community organized events.

Not surprisingly, Main Street communities are among those seizing upon the opportunity to promote Small Business Saturday in an effort to increase visibility of their local businesses and kick-start sales during the holiday season and beyond. Several Main Street Managers who have held events in the past recently shared their SBS experiences with us and we want to share their tips and successes with the entire network. As Main Streeters, we know how important local businesses are to the success of our communities, and we hope that this roundup of Small Business Saturday stories from Beaufort, S.C., Staunton, Va., Franklin, Tenn., and Macon, Ga., will inspire you to get involved. We think you’ll find that Small Business Saturday is simply too big to ignore!

Beaufort, South Carolina: Shop. Dine. Stay. Play.

Businesses in Beaufort, South Carolina have had great success on Small Business Saturday and appreciate the support of Main Street Beaufort, USA and the community on a day dedicated to them. "Small Business Saturday has consistently been one of our top days in terms of sales, traffic, and movement of merchandise. The national media attention -- and the local events that Main Street Beaufort uses to promote the day – generate such enthusiasm and excitement for the day that you can feel it in each customer who comes into the store,"  remarked Allegra Craig, Co-Owner of Joli Home Accents.

LaNelle Fabian, Executive Director of Main Street Beaufort, USA, said the organization takes several steps leading up to the day of the event to raise awareness of Small Business Saturday including PSAs by local radio stations and a proclamation read by the Mayor at City Council. On the day of the event, Main Street Beaufort sets up a table beside a live radio remote and registers people for giveaways from downtown merchants. This gives the organization the opportunity to capture email addresses to add to their community newsletter and the merchants have the opportunity to be interviewed during one of the live breaks. Last year they also gave away bags that said “I shopped local in Downtown Beaufort” and this year will have bags that show their new logo and say “Shop. Dine. Stay. Play.”  They intentionally don’t theme the bags for SBS or the holidays so they can be used year-round, and as a result, they see them being used at grocery stores, farmers market, and as makeshift briefcases for paperwork long after the holiday season has passed.

As with many of the other Main Street organizations, Main Street Beaufort takes advantage of the free resources that American Express provides such as printed posters and logos. This year they also signed up to be a Neighborhood Champion with American Express and look forward to receiving balloons, banners, and more to use for the day. Nan Sutton, Owner of Lulu Burgess, appreciates the efforts made by American Express to dedicate the day to small businesses like hers - "I think that Small Business Saturday was one of the smartest things that American Express did for small businesses. The big boxes get all the attention on Friday following Thanksgiving and small business needed a day like that for us. We have seen an increase in traffic and sales, as well as purchases made with American Express since the holiday began in 2010." 

For additional information about Small Business Saturday in Beaufort, please contact LaNelle Fabian at director@downtownbeaufort.com.

Staunton, Virginia: It’s all about Promotion

Staunton, Virginia has been offering discounts and activities throughout their downtown on Small Business Saturday since 2011.  The first year they got approximately 15 businesses to participate and that number has doubled since then! The offers have also been much stronger with deeper discounts, gifts with purchase and cause marketing promotions that benefit local charities.  

The Staunton Downtown Development Association supports the event with street entertainment, strolling choirs, and horse drawn carriage rides.  They also partner with a local radio station that hosts a live remote to generate foot traffic.  All local advertising of the event directs shoppers to Staunton DDA’s website where they feature the listing of offers and store hours.  Executive Director Julie Markowitz also makes sure that this list is distributed at events leading up to Small Business Saturday so customers can plan ahead.

Julie did note that she has run into obstacles with Small Business Saturday due to the fact that many of Staunton’s small businesses don’t accept American Express and can't take advantage of the promotional features. However, this obstacle has become less of an issue because of the popularity of mobile payment devices, which have helped to level the playing field. 

To learn more about Staunton’s experience, please contact Julie Markowitz at Julie@StauntonDowntown.org.

Franklin, Tennessee: Lights, Camera, Action!

“We make a pretty big deal out of Small Business Saturday in Franklin, Tennessee,” says Nancy Williams, Director of the Downtown Franklin Association.  This is evident by their well organized campaign that includes detailed instructions for downtown merchants that include orchestrated Main Street holiday lighting and promotions.

For example, all property and business owners are encouraged to decorate the second and third stories of their buildings, and to turn on the lights on Small Business Saturday to call attention to the historic character of the district. The DFA hopes to get 100% of  Main Street building owners to participate in the Christmas lighting so that the streetscape will look like something from a story book once dark falls on Nov. 30!

Merchants are also encouraged to offer bonuses to shoppers who show a receipt from another shop on Small Business Saturday. Retail shops typically give a 10% discount if they’ve shopped at another downtown store and restaurants offer a hot beverage or dessert with a receipt from that day. In addition, Franklin’s new promotional video, which was largely based on Michigan Main Street's promotional video, will be used heavily around Small Business Saturday. Please check them out for inspiration!

Nancy noted that Small Business Saturday is just the kickoff for a series of events in Downtown Franklin for the holiday season, culminating with Dickens of a Christmas on Dec. 14-15. For more details on Franklin, Tennessee’s event, please contact Nancy Williams at nwilliams@historicfranklin.com.

Macon, Georgia: Social Media Savvy

Main Street Macon began promoting Small Business Saturday in 2011 via their social media communication channels. To get started, they created a Facebook event page, collected and distributed special Small Business Saturday deals of participating local businesses, and also ran an article in the local newspaper.

Building upon what they have learned, this year they are running a well coordinated social media campaign that provides a great model for other communities to follow. They now manage both the Facebook page and ShopLocalMacon.com and so they’ll have an even bigger reach than in prior years. As a follow up to Small Business Saturday, Macon will promote “Twelve Days of Shopping Local” for the holiday social media campaign in December to keep the momentum going.

In addition, Macon, Georgia, and other Georgia communities  have access to media created by Main Street Georgia that includes cover photos for Facebook, 3 quarter-page full color ads and a poster for merchants to hang in their businesses.  Click here for a sample!

For more information on Macon’s social media approach, please contact Mechel McKinley at Elizabeth.McKinley@macon.ga.us.

Additional Tools and Resources

Want more information? American Express provides several free tools and resources to help launch a successful Small Business Saturday event and has created a Neighborhood Champions program as a way to organize local events. 

• Free Marketing Campaign Materials

• Order Welcome Mats and Tote Bags

10 tips to Rally Your Neighborhood on November 30th

• Information about the Neighborhood Champion Program

Stay tuned for more tips and resources regarding Small Business Saturday in the weeks ahead!