With the holiday season fast approaching, business owners are gearing up for what could be considered the trinity of holiday bargain shopping: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Nestled in the middle this year is the fourth iteration of a promotion launched by American Express in 2010. Small Business Saturday aims to promote small, local businesses through bargains and giveaways, in addition to being a savvy marketing ploy by the credit card company to boost its own use.
And this year, it falls on Nov. 29.
“It’s a brilliant campaign to go get people to use their card and to help small businesses out,” said Terri Ellen, owner of the Nature’s Pet Market on Liberty Road, one of dozens of Salem-area businesses that will be participating this year.
But credit card campaigning aside, the promotion shines a spotlight on local businesses in a way that is growing in popularity nearly to rival Black Friday.
“This is not available to the big box stores,” Ellen said. “Small businesses provide 54 percent of the workforce, so American Express is saying, we acknowledge that. Honestly, Black Friday is a big box event. The focus on small business is not for the big box stores, it’s meant for the little guys. And people really do honor that.”
Ellen, whose business has been participating in Small Business Saturday for the past three years, can attest to the success of the promotion.
“It does give us a boost in sales, which is extremely helpful,” she said. “And we hope that it’s the beginning of the ramp up to the holiday season. And it gives us a chance to talk about it and post it on Facebook like crazy and thank our customers for shopping with a small business instead of the big box store.”
For Al Tandry, owner of the Salem Summit Company in downtown, the entire weekend helps bring shoppers in the door.
“This will be our third year to participate,” he said. “Last year, we expected people to know about it and we ended up being very busy throughout the day. We have some Black Friday specials that will continue on into Small Business Saturday, as well. That’s a big weekend for everyone. It definitely generated some momentum.”
Tensions against Black Friday and some of the participating companies have mounted in recent years, as more and more companies announce sales beginning as early as Thanksgiving day.
This year, several companies have publicly announced a flat-out refusal to open on Thanksgiving, including Costco, Nordstrom and Sam’s Club.
With bitterness rising against Black Friday, could this mean an upswing of support for the little guys?
“Let’s put it this way: I hope so, but I’m not sure,” Ellen said. “I think people can’t resist a really good deal, and the big box stores are able to offer that. But personally, being a small business owner, I would rather pay a few more dollars and get that item from a small business and support the local economy.”
Tandry doesn’t see it as an either/or scenario. Although he doesn’t personally relish the 3 a.m. Black Friday rush, he sees a fair amount of Salem shoppers who use the occasion to give their business elsewhere, too.
“I would say generally speaking, it’s equal,” he said. “We offer a shopping experience that gives people a different option from the big box lines and things like that. For businesses to open on Thanksgiving — that’s insane, I don’t get that.
“Salem as a community is very vocal in shopping locally,” he added. “As far as that specific Friday and Saturday, people will come in and say, ‘We didn’t want to go to Woodburn or go to wherever, we chose to go downtown and walk around.'”
The promotion is more than just a name to draw attention to local business. There will be door prizes, free gifts on minimum purchases, American Express gift cards and money given back if customers use their American Express credit cards at registered, participating businesses.
The promotion could see particular success in a community, like Salem, happy to support local business.
“Salem is amazing,” Ellen said. “It really is. I love the support that Salem gives to small businesses.”
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