Photo: By Gary Soup on Flickr
In its second go-around, American Express went all out to hype up its nationwide Small Business Saturday campaign, which encouraged shoppers to spend cash at locally-owned stores during one of retail’s biggest weekends of the year.Its social media outreach blew up — the Small Business Saturday Facebook page drew 2.6 million “likes,” up from 1.2 million last year. And celebrities advocated shopping local using the #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtag, which trended on Twitter.
Leading up to the event, an American Express survey showed 89 million consumers planned to shop close to home. We’re still waiting to see how American Express quantifies the day’s actual success, but the anecdotal evidence we found suggests Small Business Saturday will be around next year:
- President Obama celebrated the burgeoning consumer movement by bringing his daughters to a D.C. bookstore for the occasion. NFL player Drew Brees tweeted his support, and so did New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who helped officially kick off the initiative earlier this fall.
- Small business owners reported an uptick in purchases on Saturday, including Vermont bookstore proprietor Josie Leavitt, who wrote in a Publishers Weekly blog that she saw a 100% increase in American Express sales on Saturday.
- A Harrisonburg, Va., news network featured a local fishing supply store, whose owner attributed landmark sales days over the weekend in part to social media outreach for Small Business Saturday.
- In upstate New York, Hand of Man and River Rose Cafe were busy on Saturday thanks to the shop-local push, PressConnects reports. Many customers told owner Pat Hansen they stopped in specifically to support the event.
Still, it’s tough to gauge exactly how much business can be attributed to the Small Business Saturday push versus the overall boost in consumer spending that’s typical of the weekend post-Thanksgiving. Some small shop owners in South Carolina were cautious about crediting American Express with their weekend business boons, with one saying her sales essentially matched last year’s.
Regardless, it’s clear American Express’ heavy emphasis on social media definitely paid off. It was a major means — if not the single-most important method — to get shoppers excited about spending their cash close to home.
Plus, the timing is right. More people view small businesses as potential job creators and stimulus sources in their communities. One study shows $45 of every $100 spent at small businesses gets re-circulated into the community, compared to bigger chain stores that keep local just $13. In a bleak economy, these factors can offer consumers some hope.
But in order to sustain any kind of real impact, American shoppers need to continue to invest in the shops next door. A few days of above-average sales won’t be enough to quell the strain on small businesses during a recession. But it’s a start.
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