Aired November 19, 2014
The post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend looms like a monolith on retailers’ calendars—American consumers were projected to have spent more than $50 billion over the period from November 27-30 this year. In response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which draw shoppers’ attention to big-box retailers and online stores respectively, American Express designated the Saturday following Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday in 2010, using the day to draw attention to small merchant account holders around the country.
On the November 19th broadcast of Marketing Matters on Wharton Business Radio, Sirius XM 111, hosts Professor Jerry Wind and Catharine Hays spoke with executives, organizers and retailers involved with Small Business Saturday to examine how it took shape, the manner in which AmEx offers supports to local retailers, and how the event has continued to evolve with its addition of Etsy vendors to in-store events for its 2014 edition.
Wind and Hays first welcomed Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, Small Business Saturday’s Official Spokesperson and founder of Retailminded.com, who spoke about the challengesfacing small retailers and the ways in which American Express offers them assistance. Small retailers “are forced to work on a much more limited budget; you really have to use every dime to reach customers,” according to Leinbach. AmEx offers small retailers access to its PR resources to bolster those sellers’ own efforts, and highlights those retailers within advertising space that it has purchased. Leinbach-Reyhle also offered examples of ways in which local retailers band together in order to reach more people locally: “Some businesses have made a pass card program that connects small businesses within a local area..some put together parades to celebrate Small Business Saturday.” Those efforts have, thus far, paid dividends: Leinbach-Reyhle credits $5.7 billion in 2013 sales to the small-shops movement
Liz Kunzier, Ambler, PA’s Neighborhood Champion for Small Business Saturday, then shared a ground-level perspective on organizing for Small Business Saturday, saying “I was out today in the frezzing cold dropping off SBS bags” to local shops. According to Kunzier, who has deep family ties to the town—her father was Ambler’s Mayor for 30 years—small retailers can feel isolated and swamped: “It’s rough to be a business in a small town.” Kunzier sees her role as Neighborhood Champion as a chance to remind these retailers that outside resources do exist for these retailers, from the advice that AmEx offers to the promotional materials and events specifically keyed to Small Business Saturday. “It’s out there for businesses to use, all you have to do is take advantage of it.”
New to Small Business Saturday in 2014 is an American Express partnership with online craft/designhub Etsy, which placed local Etsy makers at partner retailers for in-store events this year. According to Etsy Senior program manager Rand Niederhoffer, the next guest on the show, local boutiques applied to host trunk shows during Small Business Saturday “as an attraction to draw further customers…they run the gamut from high-end womenswear to eclectic home boutiques. Radish Boutique in Portland is hosting Etsy sellers and partnering with local food purveyors, and is also going to have live piano; we’re working with them to figure out the placement of the piano in the retail space. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Michelle Smith, owner of Gather, a local retailer, co-working space and coffee shop in Cary, NC, closed out the program’s roster of guests, sharing her plans for Small Business Saturday. For Smith, Etsy and Amex’s program of local trunk shows dovetails neatly with her own efforts both at Gather, which offers gifts from local designers and makers, and her organization of local markets.
“I think, in general, the mission of Small Business Saturday aligns with the mission of my business, and consumers who come to my shop really understand that the [vendors and designers showcased] there are local, that the missions align.”
Key takeaways from this show:
- Recognize that you don’t have to do it alone. Kunzier and Leinbach-Reyhle both emphasized the availability of outside resources to small retailers, from Amex’s Small Business Saturday-specific materials to organizations of local shops.
- Stay on top of local competition; According to Leinbach-Reyhle, walking through your competitors’ spaces, both big-bog and small, is “the best way to discern opportunities taking place.”
- Support other small business owners. While you might be competing, a rising tide can lifts all boats.
- Train your staff; Leinbach-Reyhle emphasized the importance of “really making sure your employees represent you.”
The feel, atmosphere, and intimacy of a space is a giant advantage that a small retailer can offer over a big-box store. According to Smith, “the one phrase I hear over and over is ‘this place has an amazing vibe…’ if there are a lot of people engaging with the space, and I see a return in repeat and new customers, then that’s an obvious litmus for success.”
The Wharton Future of Advertising Program airs programs monthly on Marketing Matters, a weekly call-in show airing on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by Wharton. Listeners can call in during the show at 1-844-WHARTON (1-844-842-7866). Programs will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Full channel information available here: http://businessradio.wharton.upenn.edu/
-Matt Wiegle, WFoA Program Assistant