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Keith H.Nov 03, 20225 min read

Small Business Saturday: Promoting the Heart of the American Economy

I was discussing potential ideas for upcoming blog posts with a brilliant writer/editor in the Atlanta, GA market. One idea was about the upcoming Small Business Saturday. He had no idea what I was talking about. I was dumbfounded. Immediately I contacted other people, asking if they knew about the Shop Small movement.

“A little.”

“I know of it.”

“Ya, isn’t that during the summer?”

Lesson learned — even if you know something, your audience may not.

So, in case you're not too familiar with Small Business Saturday, we're going to review:

  • What Small Business Saturday is & how it started
  • Why the Shop Small movement matters
  • Tips on how to promote small businesses in the "Amazon Era"

To start, we need to go back to one of the worst times for small business in the history of America.


How It All Started - The Financial Crisis 

For those of us who lived through it, the Great Recession was one of the most stressful times of our lives. Businesses were closing. The DOW was plummeting. 401ks were dissipating. The American Dream was on life support.

Then, American Express had an idea.  

On November 27th, 2010 (the Saturday after Thanksgiving), American Express, one of the biggest corporations in the world, asked consumers to "Shop Small" and launched Small Business Saturday.

A little ironic, isn’t it, that a major company wanted people to "Shop Small"?  

Well, what seemed to be just another excuse for consumers to use their American Express cards in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday quickly turned into a movement. 

  • 2011 - In a unanimous vote, the U.S Senate passed a resolution in support of Small Business Saturday, with participation from all 50 states.
  • 2013 - Organizations called Neighborhood Champions started forming nationwide. Today, there are thousands of them nationwide. 
  • 2017 - The Senate passed a bipartisan resolution that officially recognized the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.
  • 2020 - In its first 11 years combined, Small Business Saturday drove almost $140 billion in sales for small businesses across the country. 

The American Dream may have suffered a difficult blow, but it fought back, with a lot of help from consumers. 


Why Shopping Small Matters

Small Business Saturday helped fix the U.S. economy over 10 years ago. It also helped restore the livelihood of millions of American families and save communities. And now, it's continuing to help small businesses to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are a few of the major reasons why shopping small matters:

  • 99.9% of businesses in the US are considered small businesses.
  • 47.1% of private sector workers in the US were employed by small businesses in 2020.
  • Small businesses donate more (by about 250%) to local causes and nonprofits than larger companies do.
  • Shopping small stimulates the local economy — in fact, it's estimated that 67% of every dollar spent is fed back into the community.

Think about the last one. $67 out of every $100 you spend at a local small business remains in your community. Not many of us have the time or the resources to be a major contributor to our community, but shopping small is clearly one simple way to do so.

Speaking of tips...


How to Promote Your Small Business & Stand Out Among the Behemoths


  • Get involved in your community: Be an active member in your local community, and the people within it will be more inclined to do business with you. One reason consumers shop small is to do business with real people they know they can trust. How many of us go to the same mechanic every time because we know and trust them? 
  • Be authentic: Don’t go for the same tricks the big box stores use during Black Friday. If you need to have a sale for an entire week, do so. Give your customers amazing service and they’ll be back. Show them that you care more about helping them find the perfect gift than you do about gimmicks and long lines. 
  • Be kind to your customers and staff: Don’t require any of them to be at your store on Thanksgiving or in the small hours of the morning on Black Friday. Quick story: 2018 was the first Thanksgiving I spent with my father in over 20 years and he had to leave early because he had to get up at 3 am the next day to work at a major sporting goods store. Remember that family should come first, no matter if it's your family or someone else's. 
  • Spread the word through your valued customers: Promote your Small Business Saturday to your existing list of supporters, including your Facebook followers, Instagram followers, and email list. Ask them to shop and to spread the word with their friends and family. 


Has Small Business Saturday Worked for SIX?

It’s difficult to quantify whether or not Small Business Saturday has created growth for SIX Marketing. We've worked with many small businesses, B2C and B2B, but most of them don't benefit directly from Small Business Saturday or from holiday shopping in general. 

One thing the movement does, however, is raise awareness for how important it is to support local businesses. It takes some of the spotlight from big corporations and highlights how important — and how numerous — small businesses are. And the success of Small Business Saturday shows that with hard work and some good marketing, small businesses can find success in competitive industries.

We enjoy supporting small businesses through our services and, in turn, are grateful for their support. Because after all, we're a small business too. 

Thank you to our small business clients and all the small businesses throughout this great nation of ours. You're at the heart of our economy, communities, and culture. 

From ours to yours, Happy Holidays and remember to shop small!


[Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 21, 2018 and updated on November 3, 2022.]



Keith H.

Social Media Strategist | SIX Marketing