With five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, many small business owners say they’ll be pulling out all of the stops to get customers into stores during the critical holiday shopping season. According to the second annual Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, released this week by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express, more independent merchants will feel the Christmas creep as they start their promotional activity earlier than last year.
For many of the small business owners who are aware of Small Business Saturday, the day will be a part of their promotional calendar. Of those small business owners incorporating Small Business Saturday into their holiday plans, 70% say Small Business Saturday will be helpful in attracting new customers.
Small Business Saturday has become an important fixture on the business calendar for merchants and an increasing number are investing more money and providing additional incentives to reach customers. Even as social media and word of mouth remain the top methods for business owners to reach customers with their Small Business Saturday offerings, the number of business owners who say they’ll rely primarily on paid advertising (TV, radio and newspaper) to promote Small Business Saturday has doubled (18% vs. 9% in 2012). Discounts continue to be the top incentive used to encourage consumers to Shop Small, but more business owners are planning to reward customers by offering them a free gift with purchase (33%, up from 20% in 2012).
The busy holiday season often demands a more robust workforce; a large number of business owners are looking to their local communities to hire the help they need to meet consumer demand this holiday season. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of local small business owners aware of Small Business Saturday said they make it a point to hire employees from their neighborhood.
Small Business Saturday, now in its fourth year, falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serves as the traditional kick off to the holiday season for independent retailers and restaurateurs. The day was created in response to small business owners' most pressing need, more customers, and has since grown into an annual celebration of the independent businesses that help boost our local economies.
“Small-business owners are always looking for new ways to creatively promote their products and services—especially in a tough economy,” said NFIB president and CEO Dan Danner. “Small Business Saturday is a reminder of how important the small-business sector is to our economy and why it’s so important to Shop Small all year around.”
Findings from the survey also uncover the lengths to which small businesses are ready to go to promote their activities on Small Business Saturday. Among those that plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday into their holiday promotions:
75% say the day would be more effective if communities participated together by hosting events;
39% are planning to collaborate with other small businesses in a community event to promote Small Business Saturday; and
33% rely on social media most to promote Small Business Saturday to their customers.
The Small Business Saturday Insights Survey was created to provide a window into holiday planning for small business owners. Other key survey findings relating to Small Business Saturday activities include:
67% will offer discounts on specific items or general discounts on the day;
36% will offer coupons for future offers or discounts;
32% are starting their holiday promotions earlier than last year; and
21% are planning to increase the number of employees working on Small Business Saturday.
And this year, American Express has created a Neighborhood Champions program, working with business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., the Latino Coalition and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) to organize Small Business Saturday events in communities throughout the country. To date over 1,000 Neighborhood Champions have signed up to rally businesses in their municipalities to partake in local activities leading up to and on the day.
“In 2012, small businesses took ownership of the day by offering great deals and amazing experiences for their customers,” said Susan Sobbott, president, American Express OPEN. “This year, with more than 1,000 ‘Neighborhood Champions’ rallying communities, the country will be blanketed with Small Business Saturday events that can undoubtedly help keep the registers ringing.”