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Ten Ideas to Make Your Small Business Saturday a Success

October 29, 2019 | Ten Ideas to Make Your Small Business Saturday® a Success |

Residents of Woodland Park Main Street in Colorado pose with their Small Business Saturday tote bags, compliments of American Express, at the welcome station they set up to pass out swag on Small Business Saturday. Credit: Gail Wingerd

Main Street America has been a proud supporter of Small Business Saturday® since the beginning and is thrilled to team up with American Express as they celebrate the 10th annual Small Business Saturday. In honor of the 10th Small Business Saturday, we’ve gathered a list of 10 ideas to make this Small Business Saturday your best yet. As you develop your plans, be sure to create a plan that authentically celebrates your local community and complies with local laws and regulations.

1. Serve as an American Express® Neighborhood Champion
Neighborhood Champions rally their community, help host an event on Nov. 30, and distribute fun (and complimentary) Shop Small® merchandise. Thanks to our sponsor American Express, all Main Street America organization members have been pre-qualified to serve as American Express® Neighborhood Champions on a first come, first served basis. All you have to do is fill out the brief application here: and indicate you were referred by the National Main Street Center (NMSC) in the drop-down box. Be sure to use your NMSC contact information when filling out the application (i.e. local NMSC organization name, email, etc.).

2. Partner with other community organizations for maximum impact
Working with other local community organizations can help you make a greater impact with shoppers. At Woodland Park Main Street in Colorado, a collaboration between the Main Street program, the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, the City, and local businesses resulted in one of their most successful Small Business Saturdays. The community set up a Welcome Station tent downtown, where shoppers could pick up tote bags, a list of shopping specials, and a map of businesses and restaurants. Customers and businesses alike were thrilled with the outcome, with a few businesses reporting sales that were up by 50 percent from previous years.

3. Take your Small Business Saturday contests to the next level
From filling out a shopping passport or bingo card to creating a small business scavenger hunt, there are plenty of ways to make Small Business Saturday fun and interactive. For example, the Luray Downtown Initiative in Virginia created a Buy Local card with fun prizes for winners, as well as a “Shop & Stay” package, where shoppers could show $50 in receipts from local businesses to receive a special rate at an independent local hotel.

4. Tie Small Business Saturday to other community events
Photo credit: Michael Murphy

From tree-lighting ceremonies to holiday parades, tying Small Business Saturday to another Main Street event is a great way to boost community involvement. Last year, the Charlevoix Main Street DDA partnered with a local clothing store, The Clothing Company, to create a Shop Small float for their Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting event. The Clothing Company staff and Main Street volunteers who marched in the parade wore Small Business Saturday sweatshirts and handed out Shop Small goodie bags to the crowd. According to Jacqueline Dipert, President of the Clothing Company, the Main Street program’s presence at the parade was a great reminder for attendees to Shop Small the following day. It also helped participating Clothing Company staff and Main Street volunteers get excited for Small Business Saturday.

5. Get social
There’s no better way to promote how your neighborhood is celebrating Small Business Saturday than by encouraging community members to post about their Shop Small experience on social media. In Downtown Kearney in Nebraska, community members could post a selfie from participating local business on their Main Street for the chance to win a Main Street shopping spree.

6. Partner with other Main Street communities
Photo credit: Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street

Often working with other Main Street communities can help create a more engaging experience for both neighborhoods! Take Downtown Lee’s Summit and Downtown Washington in Missouri for example. Downtown Washington conducted a passport contest, where shoppers received passport stamps at participating businesses on Small Business Saturday. Participants with completed passports were entered to win downtown gift cards or a trip to Downtown Lee’s Summit. In Downtown Lee’s Summit, shoppers could pick up “scratch-off” cards at downtown businesses for the chance to win Main Street gift cards. Their scratch-off card would also enter them into a drawing to receive a free trip to Downtown Washington. Washington and Lee’s Summit exchanged stays at independent hotels in their communities, and train tickets were donated to and from both towns for the winners.

7. Get buy-in from Main Street businesses
Consider hosting a Small Business Saturday kick-off meeting with your Main Street businesses to get everyone on board and ready to participate in the big day. Encourage merchants to offer special services like free gift wrapping, free delivery, shipping services, and refreshments, as well as longer store hours.

8. Experiential retail is key
Encourage your small businesses to host in-store shopping experiences to make Small Business Saturday fun for all ages. From wreath-making workshops to creating custom wrapping paper, hosting interactive and festive activities will be sure to bring shoppers downtown. In Benicia, California, for example, the Main Street program hosted a Wine Walk last year, where 30 businesses set up wine tasting stations for shoppers to sip as they shopped. Benicia Main Street sold 400 wine tasting tickets last year.

9. Make it easy for community members to participate
We know that there can be a lot going on in towns across the country during the main shopping weekends, so where possible, try to make it easier for members of the community to access your shopping areas. For example, The Downtown Allentown Business Alliance in Pennsylvania offered free parking on Small Business Saturday last year to make it simple for customers to come to Main Street small businesses. Get in touch with your local city departments to see if this is possible!

10. Make the Shop Small movement last all year long
Be sure to provide customers with the opportunity to sign up to be on your mailing list so that you can engage with these community members and make them downtown customers all-year round. You can even ask willing businesses to provide coupons or other incentives to encourage customers to return long after Small Business Saturday ends.

For even more ideas about how to make this year’s Small Business Saturday a success, check out last year’s webinar on Making the Most of Small Business Saturday and posts from our blog:

Share your ideas and tips from previous Small Business Saturday celebrations with the Main Street America network on The Point, and stay tuned for an announcement about an exciting new opportunity coming soon - the Main Street Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest! The Main Street program with the best idea(s) will receive prizes in the form of gift cards. Additional details to come.