Thinking big for Small Business Saturday

On Saturday, November 28, Twin Cities small businesses will join others across the country in offering special promotions and encouraging consumers to buy local

By Kevyn Burger
Monday, November 23, 2015

Small Business Saturday was created a short six years ago, but it’s grown into a shopping event that’s created holiday traction for merchants — and deals that coax customers into their stores.

American Express technically invented the promotion, wedging it between the mall doorbusters of Black Friday and the online deals of Cyber Monday. This year on Nov. 28, small businesses in the Twin Cities will join their counterparts across the country with promotions aimed at carving off their piece of the holiday retail pie.

“You watch TV and it’s all ads from the big box stores. The advantage of Small Business Saturday is that participating businesses can capitalize on the national campaign,” said Ann De Joy with the Payne Arcade Business Association, which promotes the shops and restaurants on St. Paul’s East Side. “It’s an opportunity for those of us without a huge marketing budget.”     

More than twenty small businesses in the Payne Arcade Association will be in on the district’s Small Business Saturday this year, and the merchant group is one of the 3,000 so-called Neighborhood Champions that signed up with American Express. The champions are the organizers that promote events, giveaways and discounts to drum up excitement and give shoppers incentives to get in on the holiday fun. American Express is giving the Champions marketing materials including banners, balloons and shopping bags to help them trumpet the day.

The push to remind shoppers to patronize mom-and-pops has been profitable. American Express calculates that last year, 88 million consumers — that’s one out of every four Americans — participated in Small Business Saturday, dropping an estimated $14.3 billion into their collective till. The day is named as the biggest shopping day of the year by a number of local merchants.

The benefits of the promotion extend beyond the designated Saturday.

“In the past, Small Business Saturdays brought people in for the first time and helped us find new customers,” said Jen Chilstrom, the co-owner of Showroom, a design and fashion collaborative at the intersection of Lake and Lyndale in Minneapolis and a registered Neighborhood Champion. “For us, it helps with building relationships and a community.”

In addition to merchandise, customers who shop on Small Business Saturday come away with something less tangible from their shopping expedition that day — a sense of satisfaction. According American Express, 94% of those surveyed reported that shopping small makes them “feel good.”

“This promotion is a great reminder of the advantages of local purchasing,” said Ann De Joy. “Our community likes being onboard with their neighbors.”