The Rise and Rise of Small Business Saturday
In the last decade a new annual phenomenon has taken off around the world. Small Business Saturday, which launched in 2010, has grown from a grass-roots campaign encouraging consumers to 'shop local', into an annual event that has reached millions and raises awareness of the crucial importance of small businesses.
Created by American Express, the first Small Business Saturday started in the US, at a time when the world was recovering from the financial crisis. Taking place on the first weekend after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday has now grown to become a key calendar moment in the US, UK and Australia.
The aim was simple – to create exposure for small businesses at the heart of the holiday season - and to help to sustain and grow this invaluable sector of the economy in challenging times in general. American Express also provided an incentive to encourage its Cardmembers to support the campaign with a Shop Small promotion offering money back for spending in local small shops.
In its debut year, the campaign was hugely successful; 100,000 business owners downloaded promotional materials, while 10,000 businesses signed-up to receive free Facebook advertising. Not only did the launch capture the hearts of consumers and businesses, but politicians came on board too. Over 40 elected US officials - including Mayors and state Governors - supported the inaugural event. The political capital behind Small Business Saturday went on to reach even greater heights the following year in 2011, when Congress designated a National Small Business Saturday, with support from President Obama.
Participation continues to grow year after year. In 2015, more than 95 million people shopped at small businesses on Small Business Saturday. In 2017, over 100 million Americans said they had shopped or dined in a local, independently-owned business, while 35 per cent had shopped with smaller businesses online. Over 70 per cent of Americans are now aware of the holiday, and the day has over 7,000 registered 'neighbourhood champions' across the US.
Small Business Saturday has become firmly established as a staple in the calendar, with success not limited to the US. In the UK, consumer total spending on the holiday has risen from £468m in 2013 to a stunning £748m in 2017. Small Business Saturday was launched in the UK in 2013 and has gone on to be a stand out success. £748 million was spent on Small Business Saturday UK in 2017, up 4 per cent from the year before, with 87 per cent of local authorities backing the campaign, up from 80 per cent in 2016.
From a single day in the US in 2011, Small Business Saturday's success over the past seven years is the perfect tribute for hard-working entrepreneurs. The world of small business can be a relentless environment, but with people's love for their communities' enterprises seen beyond just the day itself, Small Business Saturday's status can only continue to grow.