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Small Business Saturday is an annual American holiday that celebrates local entrepreneurs and encourages shoppers to buy from small businesses in their area. In 2022, Small Business Saturday falls on November 26.
- In 2021, 51 million shoppers participated in Small Business Saturday. (National Retail Federation)
- Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) holiday shoppers plan to participate in Small Business Saturday 2022—more than Black Friday (56 percent). (Bankrate)
- 33.2 million small businesses currently operate in the U.S. (Small Business Administration)
- Small businesses generated 12.9 million net new jobs over the past 25 years, accounting for two out of every three jobs added to the economy. (SBA)
What is Small Business Saturday?
The idea behind Small Business Saturday is to inspire consumers to patronize local enterprises during the highly profitable pre-holiday shopping season. It takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the busiest shopping period of the year.
According to American Express, U.S. shoppers spent over $20 billion on Small Business Saturday in 2021. Capturing at least some of the shopping activity between Thanksgiving day to Cyber Monday, this year on November 28, is crucial to the success of small businesses. The NRF reported that 180 million Americans shopped during this five-day span.
How did Small Business Saturday get started?
American Express, in partnership with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Roslindale Village Main Street, started Small Business Saturday in 2010. That year American Express bought advertising inventory on Facebook and gave it to its small merchant account holders, as well as giving rebates to new customers to promote the event.
In 2011, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting the holiday, and it quickly became honored in all 50 states. The day not only drives customers to local ventures, but is positive for employment, economic well-being and neighborhood vitality in the community.
Each year after, small business Saturday has generated increased sales. In 2021, American Express reported that Small Business Saturday reached an all-time high with an estimated $23.3 billion in U.S. consumer spending. From 2010 to 2019, American Express reported that approximately $120 billion has been spent.
How consumers are approaching Small Business Saturday
A 2021 CNBC Momentive Small Business Survey found that 34 percent of Americans planned to shop on Small Business Saturday, up from the year prior, but significantly lower than in the years before the pandemic. Instead of going to local brick-and-mortar shops, they went online.
According to research conducted by ActiveCampaign, 30 percent of consumers said they do want to support small businesses over big brands, however, saying they’re aware of these businesses’ struggles. The 2021 LendingTree survey discovered that 63 percent of Americans know a small business in their community that permanently closed due to the pandemic.
The LendingTree survey found that 54 percent of women said they will shop small on Small Business Saturday as opposed to 43 percent of men. Among all the generation groups, millennials are the most likely to participate, at 59 percent. Americans with household incomes below $35,000 are the least likely to participate.
Why Small Business Saturday matters
It’s hard to overstate the importance of small businesses in the U.S. According to a 2019 U.S. Small Business Association report, enterprises with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity. These businesses provide employment opportunities, pay taxes and reduce blight.
Moreover, small businesses tend to be particularly active in their local communities. According to American Express, 67 cents of every dollar spent in a small business stays in the local community, and SCORE found that small businesses donate 250 percent more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes.
For many of those small businesses, the holiday season is critical. According to the 2021 American Express survey, 78 percent of small business owners said their holiday sales would likely determine whether they can stay afloat in 2022. And Small Business Saturday helps spread the message to consumers: The survey found that 70 percent of respondents reported that Small Business Saturday makes them want to encourage others to shop at small, independently-owned retailers.
How to support small businesses this Small Business Saturday
As a consumer, there are plenty of ways you can support small businesses on this special day – and beyond. For example:
- Leave positive online reviews. Take to social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as review platforms such as Yelp and Google reviews to extol the virtues of the business.
- Spread the word among your friends. Word of mouth is an excellent way to alert friends and family about a great place in your neighborhood. While you’re at it, bring them in with you the next time you shop.
- Buy gift cards. If you can’t shop in person or people you want to give presents to do not live close by, a gift card to that establishment is the next best thing to shopping in person.
- Order takeout directly. Third party apps take a significant cut from a restaurant or café. Instead, order directly from the website or over the phone, and pick up your own food if they don’t have their own delivery service.
- Host an event. Galleries, bars, restaurants, cafes, and retail shops are often eager to rent their space on off hours. Considerate it as a location for your next event.
Since 2010, when the event first started, Small Business Saturday has been held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Many retailers depend on the holiday shopping season to liquidate merchandise and turn enough profit so they are in the black and can restock with new products. Small businesses operate on much smaller margins than larger retail companies, though, so it is essential that they see a spike in sales and revenue starting in late November and going until the end of December. Small Business Saturday not only brings in existing customers, but new customers as well.
When you shop small, you are going to non-corporate retailers and e-commerce websites and shopping from smaller companies instead. It is an opportunity to purchase from hard-working entrepreneurs who have opened businesses in your local community. While small businesses are defined as a company with fewer than 500 employees, many are sole proprietors or have a handful of workers.