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Small Business Saturday


Updated August 11, 2022

When the leaves start to change and temperatures drop, many small business owners start to plan for one of the best small business marketing events of the year: Small Business Saturday. The holiday kickoff day is just around the corner on Saturday, November 26, 2022, but you still have time to plan ahead and make the most out of Small Business Saturday.

The day after Black Friday, “Shop Small” day, is a prime opportunity to showcase your business and offer deals to excited new customers. Each year, thousands of shoppers across the United States look forward to helping their local economies and independent businesses by using Small Business Saturday to kick off their holiday shopping. Read this guide for some tips on how to make the most out of your Small Business Saturday 2022 as the owner of an independent or small business.

Quick Tips for Small Business Saturday

Whether you are a Small Business Saturday newcomer or just looking to up your marketing game, here is a quick guide to help you plan ahead and maximize the opportunity.

  1. Know Your Business: Find creative ways to appeal to your target customers on Small Business Saturday. Whether it is product discounts, extra services or lunch specials, many businesses can benefit from this small business marketing event.
  2. Support Holiday Shopping: Provide products or services that are easily giftable. Help your customers take care of their holiday shopping before the holiday season even ramps up.
  3. Use AMEX Shop Small Resources: American Express founded Small Business Saturday and has tons of printable and digital assets to help you market your business. Use these resources to save yourself time and money.
  4. Pay Attention to Non-Local Customers: More and more people are shopping small online. If you have an online store, make sure you extend your marketing efforts to your website.
  5. Collaborate with Participating Businesses: Partner with your neighboring businesses to provide shared incentives. This is a great way to get foot traffic from brand new customers.
  6. Plan for Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Plan for a weekend of increased sales as people start spending for the holidays. If you sell through Amazon, or even Etsy, Cyber Monday is a great opportunity to up your revenue.
  7. Maximize Special Promotions: Get creative with special promotions, offering events or discounts, and extend any special offerings through the week.
    Keep reading for the full download of what to do (and not to do) on Small Business Saturday.

Download Of What To Do (And Not To Do) On Small Business Saturday

Do: Know Your Business

While Small Business Saturday is a national marketing event, not every small business is the same. Your marketing efforts will certainly work best if they are aligned with your business. Even if you think your business won’t see an effect from Small Business Saturday, you may be able to reap some surprising benefits if you specify your approach and target your known consumers.

For example, restaurants don’t often sell products, and thus do not stand to gain much from a discount on their own goods. But a restaurant owner may consider offering a takeout lunch special for shoppers in a hurry, or partner with a local store for promotional efforts. The restaurant owner could offer a discounted meal to all diners with a recent receipt from the shop, and the shop owner could inform customers of the deal on their meal. Properly executed collaboration efforts can be a win-win.

If you are a photographer, consider partnering with another local business to book holiday photo shoots at a special discount. The bottom line is that customers expect deals on Small Business Saturday, so you should get creative and think about just what your customers would want most on Small Business Saturday, and find a way to deliver exactly that.

Don’t: Ignore the Holiday Shopping Season

The fact is, Small Business Saturday happens right at the start of the holiday season, just like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That means that your customers are likely more focused on kick-starting their holiday shopping than anything else. Offering special promotions on items that cannot easily be gifted may not give you the boost in sales you were hoping for. Offer special promotions on a variety of different products, at different prices and for different types of shoppers.

You might also consider offering an extra service, like wrapping, free shipping, or special events. For example, if you sell candles or soap, consider offering a workshop where people can make their own. These incentives bring people into your store and can help you to pilot ideas for future revenue streams.

Do: Take Advantage of American Express Shop Small® Resources

Small Business Saturday was created by American Express (AMEX) during the Great Recession to encourage U.S. consumers to shop at small businesses and independent retailers, rather than big box stores. As such, it’s an established holiday for local economies across the country. One of the best things about Small Business Saturday is that you aren’t starting from scratch on marketing materials, the word is out; you just need to capitalize on the excitement that’s already there.

American Express has tons of Shop Small® printable signage and digital assets to help let your customers know that you are participating in Small Business Saturday. Use these resources and the #shopsmall hashtag to advertise on social media and in your local community.

Don’t: Focus Only on Local Markets

Small Business Saturday is primarily a local event, where customers visit their local small businesses to offer support for the local economy and find unique goods. However, U.S. consumers are completing more and more of their purchases online. If you sell your products or services online for customers who may be out of town, don’t forget about marketing to your online client base. 

You can add information about Small Business Saturday on your business website, through an email newsletter, and on social media to remind your online customers that they are still supporting small businesses with online purchases.

Do: Collaborate with Participating Businesses

One of the best ways to maximize your sales and overall success on Small Business Saturday is to join forces with other independent businesses in your local community. You could team up with the businesses that are your immediate neighbors and offer packages or incentives for customers of one business to visit the others. You could even collaborate with local retailers all over town to bring qualified customers into your business. Partnering with charitable organizations to contribute, e.g. 10% of the day’s profits to their cause could drive the same buzz for new customers hoping to support philanthropy while exposing your business to new audiences. 

Advertise these partnerships ahead of time, especially on social media, allowing potential customers to plan to visit your store well in advance. Not only do small business collaborations help increase foot traffic in your store and attract new potential customers, but they also help you make connections with other local business owners who can offer advice and support for years to come.

Don’t: Forget About Cyber Monday and Online Sales

While Small Business Saturday is the “big day” for small business shopping, the shopping buzz extends into the following week with Cyber Monday. While Cyber Monday has traditionally been focused on e-commerce giants like Amazon, there is no reason why your small business can’t participate.

If you are an Amazon seller or have an Etsy shop, Cyber Monday has even more potential to garner additional sales for your business. If you have customers on Small Business Saturday who do not make a purchase in your place of business, provide information for online shopping and a brief bit of information about any discounts going forward, they may return to your goods later in the holiday season!

Do: Have Special Promotions (and Extend Them Through the Next Week)

Everyone likes to feel like they are getting a good deal, even if they are supporting small businesses, so special promotions in the form of a discount are always appreciated. However, other less traditional types of promotions, like a raffle or a workshop, can increase buzz about your business just as well. 

For example, if you own a liquor store, offer a wine tasting event with snacks and a discount on wine or liquor.  If you own an independent clothing store, consider hosting a small fashion show with the newest style additions to your inventory. Make sure that you publicize these types of events or offers well in advance, so that people can register or plan to visit your business.

How To Deal With Post-Holiday Returns

‘Tis the season for increased selling opportunities, strong sales, and an abundance of customers. Unfortunately, it’s also the season of post-holiday returns. According to Bargainista, one in three people returned at least one gift last year.

In a perfect world, your customers will be 100% satisfied with all purchases made and the people who they may have purchased gifts for will be, as well. And while we’re speaking of a perfect world, let’s assume you won’t have any fraudulent purchases made at your store, either. But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? As a result, it’s up to you to identify how you want to handle the inevitable rush of post-holiday returns. To help, consider these tips.

Kindness Rules…Even When Customers Think They Do 

When handling returns, it’s easy to get flustered and frustrated due to customers not getting “exactly” what they want. With this in mind, consider how your behavior influences their actions in every move you make and with every word you say.

By making it a store policy to use kindness in your actions and choice of words, you can help to influence customers in their own behaviors. And while not every customer is easily persuaded, training your employees to react with kindness can also help them keep their cool in difficult situations.

Speaking of which, consider a plan of attack in case difficult situations occur. An example of this may be when a customer demands a return on something that was clearly identified as non-returnable. What should you do? This leads us to tip number two.

Calmly & Clearly Identify Your Store Policy 

Stating the obvious — such as a clear return policy that your store has in place — is never fun for customers. And yet, this still remains a necessary step in dealing with customer returns, particularly those that are presented by difficult customers.

To start, politely acknowledge the situation as well as their disappointment/frustration/etc. By acknowledging that you have heard what they said, you are one step closer to getting to a resolution. Ignoring — or not clearly identifying that you understand what they expressed to you — can often take you a few steps backwards. This should be avoided whenever possible.

Next, calmly explain your store return policy. You do have one, right? By addressing this policy, you are simply sharing the terms of their purchase agreement with you. If the customer is not satisfied with your policy or was unaware of it, consider how you can still support them. A store credit is one option, though you have to consider if this makes sense for you. For most small business owners, offering a full cash or credit refund is typically not ideal. You need to have this expressed in your return policy so that customers can firmly understand this — even if they don’t like it.

Make Your Policy Front & Center Beginning Today (If You Haven’t Already)

Post-holiday, mid-holiday, or any day of the year, returns are a necessary evil of retail. But how you handle them doesn’t have to be torturous.

  • Post policies on receipts and have customers initial receipts as an acknowledgement of understanding your store policy.
  • Clearly place an overview of your return-policy near your cash wrap or POS area so that it’s easily accessible to reference during your checkout procedure.
  • In your policy identify that any refunds provided to the customer will only be offered in the same form of currency used for the purchase.
  • Identify the situations where store credits will be issued vs. a full refund, such as if a certain time-frame passes.
  • Be clear on your store signage, receipts, and all other communication regarding the limit to when returns or exchanges are welcomed. 30 days is a fair time, though 14 is often more ideal for smaller store owners.
  • If possible, consider offering gift receipts to customers to help avoid return issues due to gift giving.
  • Consider any limitations to which products cannot be exchanged or returned at all, including if they were opened, damaged after purchase, or anything else.

Be on Alert For Fraudulent Returns

Despite your best efforts in keeping legitimate customers calm and your staff cool and collected during post-holiday return season, there is still the chance you may encounter an attempt for a fraudulent purchase to be returned. If this does in fact happen, do you have a plan of attack?

Superior customer service is a great way to combat fraudulent returns, as a criminal attempting to make these does not want sharp, skilled customer care but instead hopes for a quick transaction that leaves them with your money. Keeping this in mind, train your team to demonstrate attentive customer service always, especially in situations when they may sense something is wrong.

Teach your staff to handle these situations the same way they would any other by asking for a receipt and even going as far as asking about their experience shopping in the store. Use these tactics to gain time as well, and have your staff member state that they need a manager to review the return request. At this time you should have your staff use a phone in the back room or away from the “customer” to call the police. Yes…the police. These are criminals, after all, and if you suspect or know 100% that an attempt for a fraudulent return is being made, that’s what you need to do.

Long story short, a little bit of pre-planning, creativity and collaboration with local business owners on Small Business Saturday can help you to head into the holiday season with the boost you need. Prepare for an uptick in sales during Small Business Saturday and the holiday season with a working capital loan or merchant cash advance from Credibly.


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