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November 19, 2021

How to Participate in Small Business Saturday

Samantha Hubay

Written by:

Samantha Hubay

How to Participate in Small Business Saturday

The holiday season is upon us, which for many people means it’s time to shop! There are some big shopping days coming up soon, including our personal favorite – Small Business Saturday.

Key Takeaways You Will Get From This Article

1. Before small business Saturday, make sure your business listing is updated on the American Express Shop Small Map, take advantage of exclusive offers, access and customize free graphics for your window, website, or social media pages, and organize a kickoff event. 

2. During small business Saturday, get involved with your community’s special events, remind customers to buy gift cards, extend your business hours, and find ways to keep your staff energized about the big day. 

In this post, we’ll explore how you can be intentional with your dollars this season, simultaneously supporting small businesses and your local economy.


Table of Contents

  1. The History and Purpose of Small Business Saturday
  2. Business Owners - How to Plan for Success
  3. Consumers - How to Support the Shop Small Movement



The History and Purpose of Small Business Saturday®

The concepts of Small Business Saturday® and the Shop Small® Movement were created by American Express during the 2010 recession to bring more holiday shopping to small businesses. After the first occasion was a success, the movement started gaining momentum. Business owners and local officials across the country began promoting Small Business Saturday and in 2011 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day. (American Express reports that it even got a shout-out from the President of the United States!)

Also in 2011, business associations, nonprofit trade groups, municipalities, and public officials united to form a Small Business Saturday Coalition encouraging everyone to Shop Small. Organizations across the nation jumped in to support their local communities by signing up as Neighborhood Champions, offering events and activities on Small Business Saturday and beyond.

“We’re committed to helping small businesses stay in business. In 2020 alone, American Express spent approximately $200 million on initiatives to support small businesses around the globe. And when you Shop Small®, the dollars you spend at a local business in your community can add up, too.” – American Express

Celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday continues to be an annual holiday shopping tradition — just one part of the larger Shop Small Movement that supports small businesses everywhere.

Source: American Express


Let’s talk about how you can join the Shop Small Movement!


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Business Owners – How to Plan for Success This Year

This year, Small Business Saturday falls on Saturday, November 27th. Here are some tips to help your business before, during, and after the big day!


Before Small Business Saturday

  1. Put your business on the map.
    If you haven’t already, make sure your business listing is updated on the American Express Shop Small Map. This map is designed to help consumers quickly and easily access a list of small businesses in their area. By including your business on this map, you increase your visibility online and can be recommended to Amex Card Members through free targeted marketing.

    Click here to update your current business listing or add a new one.

  2. Take advantage of exclusive offers.
    Many organizations recognize the value of the Shop Small Movement. This is why companies like Google, FedEx, Dell, and more are offering exclusive offers for small businesses like yours. Click here for a compiled list of some of those offers, designed to help you connect with customers, compete online, optimize operations, and more.

  3. Access and customize free graphics for your window, website, or social pages.
    To simplify Small Business Saturday promotion at your business, American Express offers pre-designed and customizable graphics for digital or print. The best part is, they’re all free to download and use!

    Customize your materials in less than two minutes on the American Express website here.

    To download general Shop Small materials, click here.

  4. Organize a kickoff event!
    Today’s holiday shoppers are looking for great gifts, but they’re also looking for fun shopping experiences. You can give them exactly what they’re looking for by holding a Small Business Saturday kickoff event.

    This doesn’t have to be a huge event with catered food and live music. You could certainly go that route if you want, but smaller efforts often feel more personal. Here are a few small-scale ideas that can inspire big smiles:

     - Offer small drinks or baked goods to customers as they enter the store.
     - Promote a special discount based on the number of customers (i.e. first 100) or hours of the day.
     - Set up an in-store activity that demonstrates some of your top products or services in action.
     - Partner up with other small businesses or charities and highlight them in your store. This is a great way to celebrate the season of giving!

  5. Market your business to customers new and old!
    The best way to plan for success on Small Business Saturday is to promote your business everywhere you can. Use the digital materials we mentioned above on your social media channels to encourage customers to shop at your small business. You can also use these and other materials (like these free templates from Constant Contact!) to create Small Business Saturday-focused emails.


During Small Business Saturday

  1. Get involved with your community’s special events.
    Small Business Saturday is about shopping small and supporting local, but it’s also about helping communities grow. While you and your community are celebrating small business, take some time to get involved!

    If you’re hosting your own event, it probably won’t be feasible to go out and participate in person. Instead, try sending a shoutout on social media or encouraging your customers to visit the local home décor shop down the street after finishing up at your business.

  2. Remind customers to get their gift cards!
    Gift cards are a low-risk, high-reward way to boost profits for your business, especially during the holiday season. In fact, 44% of shoppers say a gift card is an incentive to visit a store they wouldn’t have otherwise. And let’s not forget - consumers typically spend about $59 more than the value of their gift card. Encourage your customers not to leave your store or restaurant without grabbing a gift card for their friend, family member, or themselves.

    Do you need to replenish your gift card stock? We are offering a $25 gift card bundle deal for the holidays! Contact us to learn more.

  3. Extend your business hours on this special day.
    A great way to keep revenue coming in on Small Business Saturday is to extend your hours of operation. It’s highly likely that this will be your busiest day of the year. Putting in a few extra hours could have a big impact on sales!

  4. Find ways to keep your staff energized and excited about the day.
    As we said, it’s likely going to be a busy day. That means your team members are going to be tired and perhaps even overwhelmed. Do your best to make this day fun for everyone!

    You could provide snacks or drinks for staff members throughout the day, or even hold a friendly sales competition with an exciting prize. The promise of an extra day off or bonus check for the winner can help your staff stay energized and ready to work.

After Small Business Saturday

  1. Pat yourself on the back and take some time to relax.
    You did it! Give yourself and your team the opportunity to recuperate. If it was an especially busy weekend, you can consider closing for the day on Monday or reducing your hours to give your team some extra time to rest.

  2. Thank your team and show appreciation for their work.
    Making Small Business Saturday successful is absolutely a team effort. Show your team how much you appreciate all their hard work in the way that makes the most sense for them. Maybe that’s a handwritten note with a coffee shop gift card, a little bag of holiday treats, a free product, or some extra time off.

  3. Review the books and analyze the campaign’s success.
    Of course, you won’t know how successful your efforts were until you do some analytics. Once the weekend has wrapped up, take some time to sit with the books. Analyze what worked and what didn’t. This can help shape your strategy for next year and give you a benchmark for future efforts.

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How to Support the Shop Small Movement as a Consumer

Are you excited about small businesses after reading this post? Good! They are counting on your support this year. Here are some ways you can participate in the Shop Small Movement as a consumer:


  1. Make a list of businesses in your area to support.
    A typical holiday shopping practice is to make a list of items to get and find the most convenient places to purchase those items.

    What if you flipped the order this year? Start by making a list of small businesses to visit, and then see what treasures you can find for gifting. This approach will do more than help you find gifts, it will actually help boost your local economy.

    Search the American Express Shop Small Map to find the small businesses in our area!

  2. Use your voice to promote businesses you love!
    An easy and free way to support your local businesses is with positive feedback! Share the businesses you love with your friends and on social media. You can also take a few minutes to write them a glowing review on Google or other third-party review sites. Sometimes the best thing you can do to show support is award 5 stars!

  3. Sign up for loyalty/rewards programs at your local businesses.
    Who doesn’t love exclusive offers, discounts, and coupons? A great deal is what makes shopping exciting! These are often perks when you sign up for a loyalty/rewards program.

    Ask around at your favorite businesses to see if they have a free program. If they do, sign up! You’ll get the perks they offer, and it will remind you to keep shopping small, even after the holidays.

  4. Shop ‘till you drop.
    Now it’s time to get out there! Take advantage of holiday deals, specials, and sales. Plus, don’t forget to cash in those loyalty rewards that have been stacking up this year.


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Whether you’re a small business owner or consumer, we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating Small Business Saturday and all the season has to offer this year. Thanks for reading!


Sources: American Express, U.S. Small Business Administration, Constant Contact

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