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5 Ways to Make This Your Best Small Business Saturday Yet


October 16, 2023 | 5 Ways to Make This Your Best Small Business Saturday® Yet | By: Liz Shenk, Manager of Marketing and Outreach | 

From left to right: Downtown Sweetwater, Tenn., City of Stockbridge Mayor and Council Proclamation Ceremony in honor of Small Business Saturday in Stockbridge, Ga., Downtown Makers Fair in MainStreet Oceanside.

Small Business Saturday is coming up on Saturday, November 25 – as usual, falling on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday at the peak of the holiday shopping season. For many Main Streets and commercial districts, and the small business owners within them, Small Business Saturday has become one of the busiest and most profitable times of the year. In 2021, Small Business Saturday sales reached $23.3 billion, putting Small Business Saturday is on par with Black Friday (more than $30 billion) and Cyber Monday ($10.7 billion), according to the 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey commissioned by American Express. For small business owners, the impact of Small Business Saturday and the Shop Small® season can have immense impact, perhaps even giving them the financial bump they need to grow their businesses, creating a beneficial ripple effect throughout the community.

Main Street America has been a proud supporter of Small Business Saturday since its founding in 2010, and we are thrilled to once again team up with American Express® to help rally communities around their small businesses through the Neighborhood Champion program. But most importantly, it’s you -- our network of Main Street organizations -- that have played an important role in driving foot traffic, boosting holiday sales, and building a sense of festivity and camaraderie around the annual event. 

Over the years, we have heard countless stories about the unique ways Main Streets have built support for local small businesses through Small Business Saturday and Shop Small events and promotions. Drawing from this wealth of knowledge and experience from around the network, we’ve put together a list of five ways to make this year your best Small Business Saturday and Shop Small season yet.

1. Serve as a Neighborhood Champion

As a Neighborhood Champion, you'll get access to Shop Small merchandise to rally your community to support small businesses. 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. Space is limited so claim your spot before applications close. All you need to do is fill out the brief application here and indicate you were referred by Main Street America/National Main Street Center (NMSC) in the drop-down box. Be sure to use your MSA contact information when filling out the application (i.e. local MSA organization name, email, etc.).

2. Provide Opportunities for Younger Audiences

This spring, we invited Main Streets that participated in the 2022 Small Business Saturday® Neighborhood Champion program to apply to the Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest, specifically looking for programs that engaged with “next generation” audiences to encourage younger shoppers to explore local businesses and their Main Street communities. From selfie booths to local influencer marketing to pop-up shops to partnerships with local schools, the level of creativity from applicants was impressive. In Sweetwater, Tenn., Sweetwater Main Street created a TikTok account to spread the word about their events and involved high school and college-aged volunteers which also aided in word-of-mouth marketing. In Chicago, Calumet Area Industrial Commission created a social media campaign involving strategic hashtags and local influencer marketing. In Stockbridge, Ga., Stockbridge Main Street invited shoppers to participate in a selfie challenge, encouraging photos at local businesses which helped increase engagement and awareness among younger audiences.

3. Provide Learning Opportunities for Businesses

Small Business Saturday can present a great opportunity for partnering with and providing tools for your local business community. A great way to help support businesses prior to the day is to provide a marketing toolkit with sample social media posts, email language, even tips and insights on best practices for certain industries. Looking for additional support outside of your Main Street organization? Partner with a local business-supporting organization like a Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, or Economic Development Commissions. In Stockbridge, Ga., Stockbridge Main Street hosted several business and community engagement initiatives to bolster the Shop Small season. For example, through a partnership with their area’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), they offered business classes to BLITZ participants that specifically focused on small business marketing, social media management, and finance.

4. Gamify Your Events

What better way to get people excited than to make a game out of your events? Many communities create game-like scenarios on Small Business Saturday or throughout the holiday season through scavenger hunts, shopping passports, and contests to build enthusiasm and increase participation. In Ortonville, Mich., Ortonville Downtown Development Authority created a “Local Gems” Sweepstakes that invited participants to submit a selfie photo at a local business they consider a local gem for the chance to win a prize. They also distributed Scratch-&-Win cards for businesses to give out to Small Business Saturday shoppers.  In Oceanside, Ca., MainStreet Oceanside offered their Oceanside Holiday Challenge in which participants used an app to choose from a variety of selfie or video “missions” at Small Business Saturday events. Each point earned in the app equaled one drawing entry, with a minimum requirement of 5 points for entry into small prize drawings and 25 points for entry into grand prize drawings. As a further reward for supporting local businesses, all participants who earned at least 25 points that did not win a grand prize were offered a free nontransferable ticket to their 2023 Sip & Shop Downtown Oceanside ticket.

5. Create Memorable Experiences

There’s nothing quite like doing your shopping in your local community – and it’s even more special during the holiday season. Make the experience one to remember this year by building your Small Business Saturday promotions around holiday-themed events and activities. Last year, Sweetwater Main Street hosted a variety of events throughout the day on Small Business Saturday, including Breakfast with Santa, pet pictures with Santa, and their annual Small Town Christmas event, which included carousel rides, vendors, and more. Over 8,500 people attended their Small Business Saturday events in 2022. MainStreet Oceanside in Oceanside, Ca., brought back its award-winning holiday shopping event series, ‘Tis the Season to Shop Local, which extends from Small Business Saturday through mid-December. This fun and distinctly local holiday celebration included a craft beverage tasting event, a Downtown makers fair with the addition of new Millennial and Gen Z student makers, a tree lighting celebration during the weekly Sunset Market, a holiday mobile scavenger hunt, and a variety of heavily promoted in-store events held by participating local businesses.