Lessons Learned From Small Business Saturday - Wholesale Supplies Plus
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Lessons Learned From Small Business Saturday

Now in its sixth year, Small Business Saturday (SBS) was created by American Express to boost consumer focus and spending at small businesses during the holiday shopping season. Based on this year’s results, November 28 was a stellar kickoff to the season as 95 million customers descended on retailers, restaurants and a variety of other small businesses. This was an 8% increase over last year and generated total sales of $16.2 billion, easily topping last year’s total of $14.3 billion.

Local businesses are a key component of the economic engine for thousands of communities across the country. Support for the “Shop Small” message was widespread and included many prominent individuals, agencies, organizations, and large businesses that provide much of the supplies and technology that keep the smaller ones running:
  • The U. S. Senate passed a unanimous resolution designating November 28 as SBS.
  • Over 200 federal officials and agencies posted their support on social media outlets, and 14 public service announcements were recorded.
  • 551 proclamations were issued by mayors and city officials from all 50 states.
  • More than 4,100 Neighborhood Champions created special events and rallied local businesses.
  • More than 425 organizations joined the SBS Coalition to support the event.
  • Almost 100 large companies were official sponsors and supporters, including AT&T, Sam’s Club, Hertz, Ace Hardware, Etsy, Starwood Hotels, and Square.

Lessons Learned

SBS has grown every year and is likely to continue growing as its popularity spreads and more businesses get behind it. For small businesses, future planning should allow for higher product demand accompanied by added competition. Here are some things to consider for November 26, 2016:
  • Set a date to start marketing special promotions for SBS. Don’t wait for traffic to come to you or your website. Be proactive and aggressively pursue customers both offline and online with services such as AdWords.
  • Update your website with a temporary SBS-themed banner available at www.shopsmall.com which also offers specialized online tools. Make sure your website is fast and optimized for mobile device access (you can test it here: www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly).
  • Double-check your security protocols and verify compliance with payment card industry (PCI) standards. End-to-end encryption and other precautions will earn the trust and loyalty of future customers.
  • Consider offering SBS swag in advance as a way of attracting people to the event and showing their support (e.g. “Shop Small” totes and gift bags).
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar store, hold a special event with refreshments and maybe a special guest. A raffle is a good way to generate excitement and collect contact information.
  • Stand out from the crowd and be specific about your plans. General statements like “Check us out on Small Business Saturday” are less effective than something like “Buy two and get one free between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.” Highlight products that you think will make great gifts.
  • If you’ll need temporary help, set a date to start the selection process.
  • Plan your inventory ramp-up in advance of SBS with enough lead-time to fully stock to your expected demand.
  • If you offer gift certificates, do a special promotion in advance of SBS.
  • Stock up on supplies like wrapping paper and imprinted gift bags.
  • Review and understand your total costs throughout the year and use that information to set prices that will produce an acceptable profit.
  • Be prepared to compete with large retailers that extend their black-Friday sales over the weekend.
  • Large turnouts at craft shows and fairs indicate that handmade products were so popular that many artisans ran out of product halfway through the day.
  • Help promote other small businesses in your area; they’re likely to do the same for you. Joining forces makes everyone stronger.
  • Use the most popular Twitter hashtags: #ShopSmall, #SmallBusinessSaturday, and #SmallBizSat. Encourage your contacts to re-tweet and get the word out, and maximize your use of Facebook and Instagram.
  • Use your advantage as a small business to personally connect with potential customers. The overall shopping experience and customer service are as important to some customers as the products they buy. Turn these into differentiators from your larger competition.
  • Don’t limit your focus to SBS. Leverage all your marketing and promotional efforts to capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well. All those shopping dollars are also available to you.
  • Use SBS as an opportunity to expand your customer list for future newsletters and promotions. Use that list to follow up with all those who supported you, and offer them one more enticement to visit you before the holidays. Without being overbearing, keep up the communications and convince them to be lifelong customers.


One day a year won’t make your business a success, and it’s naïve to expect too much from SBS. Many shoppers are looking for the best deal wherever they can get it, and that could mean the big box store just around the corner. That’s why it’s so important not to wait for SBS to unleash new marketing strategies that could work just as well all year. Look at SBS as a bonus to what you’re already doing to promote and expand your business.

Small businesses are fueling the success of many communities and support for those businesses keeps a much greater percentage of family wealth close to home. They create jobs, contribute to a strong sense of community, and make those communities better places to live.

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