Here’s a Thanksgiving recipe that should become a tradition all over Minnesota:
Take one small business – preferably one that’s homegrown, not mass-produced – and stuff it with customers and a generous portion of greenbacks. Serves: the entire community.
Mmmm-mm. That sounds especially delicious to thousands of small business owners statewide who watch with a mixture of awe and envy as throngs of shoppers rise before dawn and descend upon big-box retailers, department stores and malls in the annual post-Thanksgiving retail free-for-all known as Black Friday.
For small businesses, it’s hard not to feel like a beggar at the feast. But rather than just accepting that they’ve been shut out (or just hoping to take home a few of someone else’s leftovers), small businesses all over the country have decided it’s time to have a post-Thanksgiving banquet of their own.
Now in its fourth year, Small Business Saturday is a growing national campaign begun in 2010 by the American Express Company to raise consumer and community support for small, independently-owned retailers by encouraging shoppers to think outside the big box when they make their holiday purchases.
And there are signs the effort is succeeding. Two years ago, the United States Senate officially recognized Small Business Saturday. Today, about 67 percent of consumers say they’re aware that the official “Shop Small” event takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And by the sound of cash registers ringing all over the country, consumers are beginning to pencil the occasion onto their shopping calendars. Last year, consumers went out of their way to spend an estimated $5.5 billion at small retailers, service providers and restaurants that day.
If you’re a business owner or manager and just learning about Small Business Saturday, it may be too late for an effective marketing campaign this season, but it’s never too soon to start planning for next year. The Shop Small website lets you download printable signage and imagery for printed materials, as well as digital banners and logos to use on your website and social media pages. The site also provides email templates and social media posts to help you reach out to customers. Watch videos of how other small business owners have promoted the day.
There’s no cost to participate or use the tools and resources on the website. Merchants who accept American Express cards can even create a personalized marketing campaign, receive free online ads, and be featured on the website.
Check out the materials, start thinking about the great campaign you'll have a year from now, and start making connections to customers and other small businesses in your community. Those efforts will pay.
If your community is small enough, you already know where to take your holiday dollars. Go on, make a day of it. Shoppers in metro areas can check out the Small Business Saturday online map to find all kinds of options for dining, shopping, entertainment, travel and other services. Search by business name, city, address or zip code.
Taking care to patronize small, independently-owned businesses does more than just satisfy a consumer itch (as if you really needed another excuse to scratch). It’s really an investment in neighborhoods and communities. Small businesses are a major source of jobs, paychecks, tax base and a cornerstone of a strong economy. Nationally, small businesses make up:
Everyone from neighborhoods to entire communities can get involved by sponsoring special events to coincide with Small Business Saturday and by creating and promoting Shop Small “neighborhood circles” that connect businesses and consumers online. Nearly 25 Minnesota cities – from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro to smaller communities spread throughout Greater Minnesota are participating this year. See a full list of participating cities.
So, if it’s your Thanksgiving tradition to stuff yourself on big box fare on Black Friday, by all means go ahead. Just remember to save some room for Small Business Saturday. There’s a lot of good shopping on the menu.