Small Business Saturday: Shop Small and Save?

By Laura Heller, dealnews writer

Smack dab between Black Friday and Cyber Monday sits Small Business Saturday, a shopping day intended to help the independent retailers of the world. But what's in it for shoppers? As it turns out, Small Business Saturday offers consumers a unique shopping experience, deals with money-back savings, and a whole lot of good will.

After a lifetime covering big box retailers, discount stores, supermarkets, and electronics chains, we're happy to give props to the little guys: the mom and pops shops whose owners put in long hours, lovingly select merchandise, and sometimes struggle to compete with the pricing prowess of places like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy.

But Small Business Saturday isn't charity. The first 100,000 shoppers who register their American Express Card and spend $25 or more on Small Business Saturday will receive a $25 credit on their American Express card statement.

Nor is Small Business Saturday entirely altruistic. American Express charges merchants higher processing fees than Visa or MasterCard; nor is there an AmEx debit card. And with many large national retailers offering and promoting the use of their own store brand credit cards, American Express had to think outside the box. Small Business Saturday is a yearly event that benefits both AmEx's business as well as the smaller businesses who aim to bring the best products to consumers.

Small Business Saturday debuted just last year, but the results were measurable. Sales at small businesses were up 28% that day compared to the Saturday after Thanksgiving the prior year, according to American Express OPEN. Overall retail sales rose 9% last year, so the event clearly had the intended positive impact.

For this year, American Express has upped its marketing budget and has allocated funds for participating businesses to create Facebook ads and participate in social networking promotions. Google, Twitter, and YouTube are also giving small businesses access to marketing tools as part of the promotions. Having the added marketing muscle should help raise awareness and sales even more.

But it's up to each participating business to determine what kind of specials to offer. And while some will have an online component — such as free shipping, a percent-off discount, or a gift with purchase — Small Business Saturday is one of those events where even the most devoted Internet shoppers should turn off the computer and head to the actual stores because a big reason why Small Business Saturday exists is to promote the experience the smaller stores offer.

Shopping at your local market, hardware store, or neighborhood boutique, you'll find a friendly atmosphere and a unique, carefully-curated, and often locally-sourced selection of gift items. It's true, even diehard online shoppers like the dealnews staff enjoy a day of shopping beyond their screens every once and awhile.

Front page photo credit: Goldilocs Sweeps
Photo credits top to bottom: Real Simple, Small Business Saturday

Laura Heller is a freelance writer based in Chicago who specializes in mass market retail trends and consumer electronics industries. You can follow her on Twitter @lfheller. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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