Why We Love Small Business Saturday

Holidays are here. How do we know? Well I have been seeing 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), and 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 merchants face. A weak showing, on the other hand, just leads to head-shakes as they attempt to figure out if they’ll be around for the next season’s cycle.

Fully cognizant of these facts, American Express made a move which has had a serious impact on the fortunes of tons of local retailers. In 2010, Amex announced their support for small business with a new ad campaign: Small Business Saturday was designed to build awareness, drive sales away from national retailers and towards local businesses and, ultimately, get more people to use their American Express card. 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 brining Amex plenty of new fans and plenty of new fees. Here’s a few facts:

  • Last year over 500,ooo 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 “liked” 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, and that 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. Registration is open now and is capped, so get in there and register your cards as soon as you can.

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