Small Business Saturday is on a roll.
What began in 2010 as a bid to rally the small business community in the wake of the Great Recession has not only become a yearly tradition, but a crusade. "At this point, it has become a movement that's much bigger than us," Amy Marino, vice president and head of Small Business Saturday at American Express, told Small Business Computing. "It's grown exponentially year-over-year."
And Small Business Saturday shows no signs of slowing down.
"Last year was the biggest Small Business Saturday on record," Marino said. More than 95 million consumers dropped by corner stores, restaurants, salons, and other small establishments in their neighborhoods during the Small Business Saturday in 2015, generating a whopping $16.2 billion in sales.
"We reached 1.3 million small businesses around the nation," Marino continued. American Express and its partners, including local chambers of commerce and groups like Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) spread the word across every single state in the U.S. and helped Small Business Saturday "hit a record 4,100 Neighborhood Champions."
Be a Neighborhood Champion
Working to "engage and excite their communities" about the positive contributions small businesses make to their local economies and to the social fabric of their neighborhoods, these volunteers drum up support for small and independently-owned companies. Neighborhood Champions devote their time and energy to planning and hosting fun events, like sleigh rides, selfie contests, and dining excursions.
Held after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday is viewed as an alternative to the hysteria surrounding the shopping holiday preceding it, Black Friday.
Instead of unruly mobs at big box stores, Small Business Saturday shoppers enjoy a leisurely stroll down Main Street, community events, and personalized attention from local business owners. It seems like a tame affair, given the noticeable lack of TV news footage depicting brawling bargain hunters wreaking havoc, but consumers come out in force.
This year's Small Business Saturday takes place on November 26th, and it's shaping up to be another record-breaker, according to Marino. To help entrepreneurs and Neighborhood Champions stage their own successful events, American Express is "making it super easy for small businesses to get involved" this year, she said.
Shop Small Studio
This year, downloading marketing materials is a snap.
Short on time? Business owners can quickly grab Small Business Saturday-themed profile and cover photos for their social media accounts at the Shop Small Studio. Also available: badges, logos, and other professionally-crafted digital assets that you can use to spruce up a website, along with email templates that deliver the "Shop Small" message to customer inboxes.
If your storefront or checkout counter that needs a little flair, American Express also offers some ready-to-print event flyers, posters, and save-the-date signage. Have a few more minutes to spare? Customized materials are just a few clicks away.
Small Business Saturday 101
Need some expert advice? Small Business Saturday 101, a multimedia hub hosted at ShopSmall.com, is packed with videos, tips and how-tos on making this year's Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping season a success. Essential viewing this year includes a video on attracting customers and another on how to stage events that reel in buyers.
Small Business Saturday 101 also offers pointers on driving customer loyalty long after the holiday decorations are stowed away. For example, author and small business expert Rhonda Abrams suggests that small retailers create themed, pre-wrapped gift bundles on which shoppers are happy to spend more money.
And remember your existing customers, writes Abrams. VIP parties, greeting cards, and other expressions of gratitude can help cement long-lasting customer relationships.
Hands-on Small Business Boot Camps
Often, nothing beats some in-person advice and instruction. A little local networking doesn't hurt either.
This October, you'll find free Small Business Saturday Boot Camps in three cities. After Chicago on Oct. 18, Rhonda Abrams and local business leaders will visit New York (Oct. 20) and San Francisco (Oct. 27) to share their holiday shopping tips and expertise.
Attendees can also get some hand-on help on creating and printing their Small Business Saturday materials. You'' find more information on times, locations, and how to RSVP here.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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