Small Business Saturday Allegedly Generates $5.5 Billion in Sales

I’m a “Small Business Saturday” skeptic. Cynically started a couple years ago as marketing and promotional tool by American Express, it may actually be delivering some value to SMBs. According to data provided by AMEX and the National Retail Federation, consumers aware of “Small Business Saturday” spent $5.5 billion on Saturday across the US.

Here’s what’s not exactly clear:

  • whether the $5.5 billion was spent exclusively at local businesses or whether it was simply spent overall on Saturday by those consumers aware of the promotion
  • whether the promotion actually impacted spending patterns in any way. (Amex offered coupons/rebates as incentives to “shop small.”)

It is clear that this is a big PR and marketing boon for AMEX and that the financial services company is the biggest beneficiary of the promotion. If AMEX truly wants to help SMBs it can lower its card-processing fees and make them more competitive with Visa and Mastercard.

In addition, the notion of “shop locally” or “shop small” shouldn’t be reserved for one day a year; it should be a regular consideration in consumer shopping habits. And while it’s impossible to do so all the time, many people can direct incremental spending to local businesses. This necessarily means buying less from Amazon, eBay and Walmart.com among others.

It’s a kind of corollary of my earlier plea to buy fewer, higher quality items and spend less on them.

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4 Responses to “Small Business Saturday Allegedly Generates $5.5 Billion in Sales”

  1. Matt McGee says at

    I think the title of this article should be more like GET OFF MY LAWN, YOU SMALL BIZ SATURDAY KIDS! :-)

    I had no idea you had these opinions about the day. Interesting. I’ll remember this for future conversation starting. (“Hey, let’s get Greg going. Someone mention Small Business Saturday.”)

    I agree that it would be nice if everyone made more of an effort to shop SMBs more frequently, but I don’t think that diminishes the value of the day. You gotta start somewhere with awareness, and I saw a LOT of local people in my Twitter stream promoting the day. Much more than a year ago. That’s nothing but good.

    And if AMEX gains from it, too … so be it. I’d be more dismissive of their intentions if the messaging included a suggestion for consumers to shop with their Amex cards. Plus, the Shop Small Facebook and Twitter pages have very minimal Amex branding, which is cool.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    You think I’m being curmudgeonly? Perhaps. There were incentives to shop with your AMEX card . . . card-linked offers. That’s clearly party of it for AMEX, as well as portraying itself as a champion of the SMB cause. 

    Yes, the awareness of SMBs is good. I’m not sure whether it translated into actual new money spent at SMB locations. I think that’s an “emprical question” that the article and claims about spending doesn’t answer. 

  3. Mikel Zaremba says at

    Great post, Greg.

    I’d like to think that this day should be backed by local credit unions.

    In my opinion,  the company “hosting” this event is the very same that is so willing and ready to railroad owners of small businesses. It’s a bitter sweet kinda thing, I guess.

    Thanks again.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Mikel:

    Hopefully the day can transcend AMEX and become part of the consumer mindset more broadly

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