Small Business Saturday Puts The Holiday Spotlight On Main Street

Sandwiched between the annual event known as Black Friday and the new-wave digital sales day called Cyber Monday is a special promotion known as Small Business Saturday. The annual push to get consumers to support small, independent merchants is fired up across the country with many small town shops pushing consumers to open their wallets on Main Street rather than the big chains.

Started in 2010 by American Express, the idea behind the promotion was to help flood local businesses who might otherwise get lost during the holiday buying season. The credit card company offers rebates to cardholders who buy from local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Other companies and local business associations have joined in to promote shopping small and, according to the New York Daily News, the movement is beginning to pick up steam.

“When we started five years ago it was to encourage people to shop at small businesses as we were coming out of a recession,” Janey Whiteside, senior vice president and general manager of American Express OPEN, told the Daily News.

“There are more businesses participating now, (and) we continue to focus on reminding people to ‘shop small’ in the period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We feel it’s a movement now.”

And that movement is directly affecting small businesses’ year-end bottom line. According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, holiday sales are a large part of a successful year and Small Business Saturday has had an overwhelming affect for many.

“It can be hard to compete with the big-box stores,” entrepreneur Thomas West told the paper. “You have to find your niche. Part of the challenge small businesses here are facing is getting people back to walking the streets. And that’s what Small Business Saturday is all about. We’re trying to show off what we have.”

Still, not everyone is convinced Small Business Saturday has any effect at all on local retailers. While Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting that “Americans who knew about Small Business Saturday spent $5.7 billion in local shops last year,” it was quick to point out that, “that number is based on a survey of 1,000 people, and doesn’t tell us what respondents would have spent if they had never heard of the promotion.”

Overall, however, the feeling across the country is that anything that helps get people out of the large chains like Walmart and Target and into local businesses and shops is always welcomed. And considering the hype of Black Friday — and the crowds typically associated with it — shopping local on Small Business Saturday may be just the cure for the holiday shopping blues.