It’s been quite a decade for Small Business Saturday. American Express launched the effort in 2010, offering its cardholders $25 statement credits if they registered in advance and shopped at a small, independent business on the day after Black Friday. In the first year, more than 20,000 people took advantage of the offer, meaning AmEx spent about half a million dollars to launch a successful awareness campaign that has grown exponentially.
Just one year later, the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the idea of boosting business during one day at the start of the holiday shopping season. In 2013, the content of Neighborhood Champions arrived, with more than 1,400 people and groups signing up to stage events and activities formally affiliated with the moment — by last year that number exceeded 7,500.
Heading into the 10th annual observance in just a few days, AmEx estimates the first nine Small Business Saturdays accounted for a combined $103 billion in consumer spending.
Last year, AmEx commissioned an economic impact study of American businesses with fewer than 100 employees and determined that for every dollar spent at such a business, 67 cents stays in the same community. Counting 67 percent of Small Business Saturday economic activity alone would be impressive, but consider also the intended effects of using this one day to build customer rapport that drives sales throughout the year.
Those living in areas where a place with 50 or 75 employees seems like a large operation are likely familiar with a small business run by just a handful of people, perhaps a small family or even a one-person operation. It’s easy to see how the money stays in town — through income, sales and property tax, payroll to friends and neighbors who work at the shop or restaurant, business-to-business purchases that never leave the ZIP code and so on.
Yes, this notion of money churning through the local economy includes advertising with the local newspaper. Yes, we operate office spaces in downtown districts where these small businesses are our employees’ actual friends and neighbors. But we’re willing to bet those of you who shop at small businesses don’t need us to tell you the value of the local connection, of a store that will go out of its way to make sure you get the right product, the opportunity to find a truly unique item or the chance to enjoy a hand-prepared meal with ingredients grown just a short drive away.
We’re glad Small Business Saturday has grown in significance in its first decade. It fits nicely with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. If you’re in the fortunate position to spend on gifts this holiday season, we encourage you to shop locally when possible, either this Saturday or whenever fits your schedule. There’s never a bad time to support the people who work hard to keep the local economy running strong.