Why We Love Small Business Saturday

Holidays are here.

How do we know?

Well, I have seen tons of holiday-themed commercials on television, I am hearing holiday music being piped through the speakers outside my local coffee spot, I am reading about how many retailers are struggling with whether they should be open for business on Thanksgiving day (not to mention making their employees work that day). I am already getting emails and banner ads about the upcoming cyber Monday offers.

For many retailers, the shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas determine whether they will have a year to celebrate or a season to mourn.

For small businesses, local retailers, and mom-and-pop shops, a good economy can translate to strong sales and a smile on that local merchant’s face.

On the other hand, a weak showing leads to head-shakes as they attempt to figure out if they’ll be around for the next season’s cycle.

Starting a business requires perseverance, sweat equity, and lots of grid. Staying in business requires much more of the same.

Fully cognizant of these facts, American Express made a move that has had a serious impact on the fortunes of tons of local retailers.

In 2010, Amex announced their support for small businesses with a new ad campaign: Small Business Saturday was designed to build awareness, drive sales away from national retailers and local businesses and, ultimately, get more people to use their American Express card.

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The genius of the campaign was that it positioned Amex as a hero of small business by leveraging the financial service company’s size and marketing clout while at the same time generating millions of dollars in credit card fees.

2014 will be the campaign’s fifth year, and it has steadily grown in size and built some excellent momentum while bringing Amex plenty of new fans and plenty of new fees. Here are a few facts:

  • Last year over 500,000 local businesses participated in Small Business Saturday.
  • An estimated 100,000,000 consumers shopped at Small Business Saturday merchants.
  • A National Federation of Independent Businesses survey reports that¬†awareness of Small Business Saturday was at¬†67% of consumers.
  • Small Business Saturday revenues were estimated at over $5.5 billion
  • Small business retailers reported sales increases of 25-30% over 2012
  • 3.2 million Facebook users ‚Äúliked” the Small Business Saturday page.
  • The social insight and analytics site Topsy reported over 200,000 mentions of the #SmallBizSaturday hashtag.

These are powerful data that indicate Amex has tapped into something essential in the American consumer psyche. These numbers tell us that consumers want to support their local businesses when they can. Local businesses are savvy enough in their own marketing and promotional efforts to recognize the value in grabbing onto Amex’s powerful marketing coattails.

Ironically, if you ask your average retailer about which credit cards they prefer to accept, Amex will typically come last.

The reason? American Express card fees tend to be higher than other cards, and their policies somewhat more restrictive to the merchant. But, having said that, smart retailers understand that, with adequate volume, they can quickly overcome a slightly reduced margin.

And on top of all that, there is a distinct benefit directly for the consumer.

I am not talking about the sales and specials that many merchants will certainly offer. This year, American Express will give back to their cardholders up to three $10 statement credits for purchases made at local businesses.

You’ll have to pre-register your personal or business cards to receive the credit, but it sure seems well worth your while.

Thanks, giant financial services corporation, and happy holidays to you, too!

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