Did Small Business Saturday Make a Big Impact?

carnival mask public domainI’m wondering if Shakespeare wrote “Much Ado About Nothing” with Small Business Saturday in mind. Yes, the Bard was a genius, but I doubt that even he could have anticipated the American Express promotion back in 1598.

For the week leading up to Small Business Saturday, virtually every story written about “small business” was about Small Business Saturday. And although I’m sure there were exceptions, I think most local merchants share the opinion of restaurant owner Nick Bari who told Bloomberg Businessweek,  “I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal one way or another. It’s more of a gesture than anything else.” Or, as Shakespeare would say, “Much Ado About Nothing.”

All the world’s a stage

But there may be another parallel between the Shakespeare comedy and Small Business Saturday. Mistaken and hidden identities are major elements of the play and they play a big role in Small Business Saturday too. While it is disguised to look like a local small business movement, it’s just as much a promotion for American Express.

Further, much of our core of small businesses can’t participate. Although most merchants can get the promotional materials after going through an application process, much of the heart of American small businesses can’t participate, such as home-based businesses and many ecommerce sites.

When the hoopla dies down

If your business seemed to benefit from the event this year, that’s great. Further, I’ve written about and promoted other local shopping movements on these pages. I think they are especially admirable when they are done at the local level. The “cash mob” movement comes to mind. But there is a reality that local merchants need to understand and embrace: For continued success, they can’t depend on the good will of local shoppers, they have to offer unique selling points that give them an advantage over the national chains.

When events such as Small Business Saturday introduce a new shopper or diner to your establishment, it’s a good thing. However, you need to be ready to show these folks why they should come back. If Small Business Saturday merely moves some sales volume from one day to another, then it’s really not accomplishing anything of merit.

Purchase considerations

It is very true that local merchants keep more money in their communities and are pillars of support for local charities and improvement projects, but unfortunately those are attributes most consumers fail to weigh when they are making a purchase decision. The perceived value needs to be more directly associated with the product, price and shopping experience.

Fortunately, there are many successful local small business merchants who are doing it right. They will continue to be successful whether or not they participate in an event such as Small Business Saturday.

Is that you? If it is, how about sharing some of the strategies that have enabled you to have success despite competition from some bigger players?

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