After the crowds have shopped at large stores and sprawling malls Black Friday, many smaller businesses are hoping today will be their day.
Thousands of small stores, spas, restaurants — even dry cleaners — across the U.S. will offer discounts and promotions to draw holiday shoppers on what’s known as Small Business Saturday.
American Express created the day three years ago, it says, to help small businesses struggling in the recession. The credit- and charge-card company encourages cardholders, who have registered in advance online to make purchases with their cards in exchange for a $25 rebate paid for by American Express, if they buy something at a participating business. American Express won’t say how much the promotion costs, but Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, the company’s small-business division, says it is a considerable amount.
But even small merchants who aren’t officially part of the event hope to get a bump in revenue on a weekend when they used to be all but forgotten in an avalanche of deep discounts offered by big stores and online retailers. The day has become an opportunity for small businesses to build customers who will keep coming back year-round.
In Dixon, Ill., 51 small businesses have banded together to recruit local artists and performers to create a party atmosphere today. A year ago, the combination of the American Express rebate and the events helped give participating businesses a collective revenue increase of more than 50 percent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, says Lisa Higby, owner of Distinctive Gardens, a garden center there. The benefit goes beyond a one-day jolt.
American Express may have intended to give small merchants — and card usage — a boost in a tough economy, but Small Business Saturday is also helping small merchants get a bigger share of the spotlight and spending between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a shopping holiday dreamed up to get people excited about shopping online on the Monday after Thanksgiving. For some retailers, the sales they get after people push back from the Thanksgiving dinner table represents a significant chunk of profit for the year. That hasn’t been so true for most small businesses. Ninety-one percent of the 1,003 small business owners said, in a survey commissioned by Bank of America, that the day after Thanksgiving has little or no effect on their profit.
To make the most of Small Business Saturday, many small-business owners offer discounts as part of a marketing strategy for the entire holiday season.
Valerie Robinson, owner of Eden Organix, a spa in Highland Park, N.J., is promoting her spa on Facebook, Twitter and on her own website. She’s mostly concerned about drawing new clients and cementing her relationship with current ones.
“We want to build more of a loyal customer base,” Robinson said.