shopping, e-commerce, consumer behavior

Preliminary estimates for this past weekend’s Small Business Saturday showed robust sales that far outpaced last year’s event, which is in its ninth year. According to data from the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, the marketing campaign resulted in “record levels of reported spending” at independent retailers and restaurants.

Estimated sales came in at $17.8 billion, which compares to $12.9 billion last year. In a survey conducted earlier this month, 104 million consumers said they had planned to shop or dine at a local, independently owned business on Small Business Saturday. Final sales and traffic data will be released at a later date.

Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer at American Express, said the “shop small” movement has evolved into a national celebration where millions of shoppers convened “to show their support for small, independently owned businesses.”

Rutledge said the day included various events and activities, and said “people all around the country are turning out to back the small businesses that make our neighborhoods and communities thrive.”

American Express said in a statement that the activities included everything from “lighting up the Empire State Building blue in New York to crafting a life-sized Shop Small gingerbread shop in San Diego, to block parties featuring local jazz and salsa bands in San Juan, businesses and neighborhoods showed what makes their communities unique and vibrant.”

As in prior years, social media played a key role in driving traffic. In the weeks leading up to the event, the NFIB said there were more than 715,000 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter “using #ShopSmall and/or #SmallBizSat, an increase of 18 percent over 2017.”

American Express said social media posts included consumers “showing off their favorite small businesses, business owners hosting events with promotions and activities taking place on Small Business Saturday, as well as government officials and celebrities, including Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake and Venus Williams, showing their support for the day and their favorite small businesses.”

In a separate survey of business owners conducted by American Express and the NFIB, respondents said they expected 29 percent of their total sales to be garnered during the holiday shopping season — with Small Business Saturday contributing “significantly to their holiday sales each year,” researchers said in their report.

The survey also revealed that 92 percent of respondents said Small Business Saturday served as a way to make their business “stand out” during the holiday shopping season and that the benefits of participating include “bringing in more and new customers [74 percent], improved sales [70 percent], raised awareness of small businesses in their community [69 percent] and the day helps their local neighborhood and community prosper [66 percent].”

More than 80 percent of respondents said they were optimistic about the holiday shopping season, with 69 percent of those polled expecting sales to be stronger than last year.

Juanita D. Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the NFIB, said independent and small businesses “depend on holiday sales and the shoppers that Small Business Saturday brings into their stores and online shops.”

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