Thanksgiving weekend is fast approaching and after the turkey dinner and football, shopping is one of the holiday weekend’s time-honored traditions. Last year, the National Retail Federation reported nearly 180 Americans shopped over the five-day holiday weekend.
Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday introduced by American Express in 2010. It was designed to help small businesses compete against major retailers, the big boxes and category killers that have steadily and relentlessly siphoned away their customers.
After two years of people’s holiday activities being curtailed by the pandemic, they are more than ready to meet their neighbors and friends on Main Street. Small Business Saturday is a great excuse to get out and about.
Not unexpectedly, people’s interest in participating in Small Business Saturday is stronger this year than last. For example, as many people, even slightly more, may turn out for Small Business Saturday (59%) as for Black Friday (56%), a survey conducted by YouGov for Bankrate.com revealed.
And another conducted by Teneo on behalf of Kabbage by American Express among over 1,000 adults found over half of shoppers (53%) said they plan to shop local or eat at an independently-owned restaurant during this year’s Small Business Saturday.
By comparison, only 42% of shoppers surveyed last year expected to engage. That amounted to some 51 million Small Business Saturday shoppers in 2021, according to the NRF. However, it was a steep drop from the 60 million shoppers who participated in Small Business Saturday in 2019.
Shoppers vote with their wallets and they overwhelmingly support small businesses operated by their neighbors and friends. Some 79% agreed that small businesses are essential to their communities.
“Small Business Saturday is a moment for all of us to show small businesses how much they matter to us and to help bolster local economies,” said Brett Sussman, vice president and head of sales & marketing, Kabbage from American Express.
“As shoppers continue to navigate a post-pandemic environment, we’re excited to see customers give their in-person and online support for the businesses they love most in their area,” he continued.
Besides wanting to help keep small businesses afloat, shoppers are drawn to local independent retailers because that’s where they can find unique holiday gifts (73%) not available from big retailers.
Despite negative economic headwinds, with some 66% of those surveyed scaling back holiday shopping this year and consumers expecting to pay more in independent specialty shops, that isn’t holding them back. Some 86% of consumers said they were likely to shop small this holiday season versus just 13% who likely won’t make it.
People crave the real-world connection they get when shopping local. Some two-thirds of consumers said the stories behind small businesses engage them, and over half prefer to seek out small businesses rather than big retailers for holiday purchases.
A counterpoint to Kabbage’s consumer survey was conducted among 550 small business owners (SBO). Overall, they expect a strong holiday season, with 64% believing this year’s holiday sales will be even better than last year.
A strong holiday 2022 will make a real difference for small businesses. The SBOs surveyed reported nearly one-fourth of their annual revenues are made between Black Friday through New Year’s Eve.
And while SBOs have a positive outlook for the remainder of the year, nearly one in four (24%) reported their survival hangs in the balance with the results of the upcoming holiday season determining if their business can survive into next year.
Small Business Saturday, November 26, will be the official kickoff for small businesses’ year-end run. They’ve been challenged throughout the year by inflation, the need to raise prices and continuing supply-chain issues.
They’ve also struggled with ongoing difficulties in hiring and retaining optimum staffing levels, critical to providing the enhanced customer service that sets independent retailers apart from big retailers.
Nonetheless, SBOs have high expectations for Small Business Saturday. Over 52% of those surveyed expect it will provide a significant contribution to overall holiday sales and half believe Small Business Saturday is more critical than ever for their business.
“Small businesses understand the criticality of successfully navigating this time of year,” Sussman concluded. “As we approach this holiday season, they’re making the necessary preparations and adjustments to win the holidays.”
The good news is independent retailers can expect more visitors this coming Small Business Saturday. But it will be up to them to turn those visitors into customers.