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Tips and Tricks to Help Make Your Small Business Saturday a Success in 2021

November 19, 2021 | Tips and Tricks to Help Make Your Small Business Saturday® a Success in 2021 | By: Jenna Temkin, Manager of Marketing and Outreach, Main Street America | 
Oceanside residents lined the street at the Merry Makers Fair, a free, two-day holiday pop-up market, in 2019. Credit: Road West Photography

Small Business Saturday® is just around the corner, and Neighborhood Champions across the country are gearing up to rally their communities around the small businesses at the heart of their downtowns. As many commercial districts continue to feel the impact of COVID-19, Main Street programs have pivoted their traditional Small Business Saturday plans or started new traditions to accommodate health and safety guidelines. Keep reading to learn more about how communities are celebrating Small Business Saturday this year and get tips and tricks for making yours a success. As you develop your plans, be sure to create a plan that authentically celebrates your local community and complies with local laws and regulations.

Celebrate the Shop Small® movement all holiday season long

Keep the small business momentum going throughout the holiday season! Be sure to provide downtown shoppers with the chance to sign up to be on your mailing list so that you can engage with these community members and make them downtown customers throughout the holiday season and all-year round. Ask businesses to offer coupons or other incentives to encourage customers to return after Small Business Saturday ends.

Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group in Mount Vernon, Iowa is spreading out their Shop Small efforts by hosting two events over two weekends: one on Nov. 6 and one on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 27). On both days, the Main Street organization will set up a booth on Main Street and ask every downtown shopper to fill in a form with their name and phone number and drop it into a fishbowl. Every hour on the hour, volunteers randomly select a form from the fishbowl and call the participant. If they can get back to the booth in 10 minutes, they win a $25 Community Cash gift certificate (good only in Mount Vernon and Lisbon) to encourage them to shop downtown all season long.

Pivoting traditional plans can lead to long-term success

Downtown shoppers take in ice sculptures during Small Business Saturday in Downtown Berlin, MD last year. Photo credit: Alyssa Maloof Photography.

In 2020, Berlin Main Street in Berlin, Maryland launched a new Small Business Saturday event to bring shoppers downtown while maintaining social distancing. During their ice sculpture event, Ice Ice Berlin, businesses sponsored ice sculptures that were placed outside of each business. The sculptures remained downtown throughout Small Business Saturday, and businesses set out racks and tables outside to encourage outdoor shopping. Ice Ice Berlin was such a success that it will return this year, along with free carriage rides and free grab-n-go art projects for kids. A Merry Marketplace will feature local artists and food cultivators set up around town, and free parking will sweeten the deal.

Take your Small Business Saturday contests to the next level

From filling out a shopping passport or bingo card to small business giveaways, there are plenty of ways to make Small Business Saturday fun and interactive. Main Street Oceanside in Oceanside, California is planning to launch a scavenger hunt called Oceanside Holiday Challenge. Merchants will create a mission for community members to complete starting on Small Business Saturday through December 12. No purchase required. After completing five missions, participants will be given an entry for a chance to win prizes from local businesses.

Tie Small Business Saturday to other community events

Small Business Saturday provides a great opportunity for Main Streets to tie in holiday shopping to other festive community events. Downtown Lee’s Summit in Lee’s Summit, Missouri hosted their annual farmers market holiday mart on Small Business Saturday for the first time last year. It was such a great success that they’re planning to bring back the holiday mart in one of their downtown alleys on Small Business Saturday to help build on the excitement of supporting local.

Get social

Runners pose for a picture after completing the Run with Rudolph Virtual 5K in 2020. Photo courtesy Main Street Mason City.

Along with encouraging downtown shoppers to post about their experience on social media, Main Street organizations are taking to their own social accounts in creative ways to encourage their community to Shop Small. In 2020, Main Street Mason City (MSMC) in Mason City, Iowa pivoted their Annual Run with Rudolph 5K to a virtual 5K Run/ Walk. They encouraged participants to post photos of their race on social to make runners/walkers feel more connected during the virtual event. While the 5K will be offered in-person this year, MSMC is still offering a virtual option.

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 for Main Street programs to share their best ideas from Small Business Saturday 2021.