First it’s Gray Thursday, then Black Friday. It could easily be a children’s rhyme about the Black Death. And if you are someone who believes that “Ring Around the Rosie” is actually about the Plague, then “we all fall down” could be a modern-day reference to the trampling of the Long Island Walmart employee in 2008. Such was the kind of cynical conversation around the turkey at my Thanksgiving this year.
Is there no end to this dark thinking? Enter Shop Small Saturday: small business owners and communities (and the government: see SBA’s Facebook page) across the U.S. drop their leftovers and their grumbling to unite in encouraging local shopping–and the retail shopping “heroes” who fuel this crucial part of the economy–with some big help from the very big American Express (NYSE symbol AXP with a market cap of 63.54B, just ahead of Mastercard, Inc., but half that of Visa, Inc.).
Founded in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday is a campaign to help small businesses get more exposure and sales during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. (Yes, you have to be a merchant who accepts American Express to qualify.) It is estimated that over 100 million people will participate today and tomorrow. (See NerdWallet’s blog post for a thoughtful report on Shop Small Saturday with recent statistics as well as “Mom and Pop” success stories.) This year the goal is to increase the impact on the small business owner with a variety of promotions including sample text for websites, signage, logos to use in advertising and promotions. Personally, I think supporting small online businesses is even more exciting–and could get lots of “bang” for the buck–and perhaps eventually affect Cyber Monday sales. According to an Etsy thread, if you have direct checkout and take credit cards, you can participate. Of course, my inner cynic asks: how do you determine if an online business is “local” or even small for that matter? Not sure, but think handmade chocolate chip cookies for presents. No, zappos.com does not count (#1 seller of shoes online, ahead of J.C. Penney’s, reached a billion sales in 2008).
Small Business Saturday supports both business owners and customers alike. Work with me and try not to be cynical on this one: to encourage shoppers to visit small businesses, American Express offers cardholders a $25 statement credit for spending $25 or more in a single transaction at a qualifying small business (enroll your card by visiting www.shopsmall.com before midnight Saturday to be eligible for the $25 credit). Sure, the financial incentive is an effective sales hook and I admit to falling prey to it myself, but not without a generous helping of Thanksgiving guilt. If I truly believe in thinking local, shouldn’t I be able to support it without a credit? Let’s face it, the small business owner needs all the help he or she can get, to go up against the big-box stores.
Dropping the cynicism and welcoming in holiday shopping for one day can be a little hard to digest, but the real hero here is the small business owner. Join with me–a devout wholesale shopper–and get in line somewhere local and small.