How Small Businesses Can Prepare for Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday this year will be different from past years — but you can still encourage plenty of customers to “Shop Small” with a little work ahead of time.

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Small Business Saturday is on November 28. Is your business ready?

For business owners, Small Business Saturday can have a big impact. Last year, shoppers supported their communities more than ever during the annual post-Thanksgiving Day event, spending a record $19.6 billion at their local mom and pops.

Spending this year likely won’t be as robust. Many consumers have less money to spend on holiday gifts after losing jobs to COVID-19. But small businesses should still encourage customers who are shopping to “Shop Small” on November 28. By participating in Small Business Saturday, you can build brand awareness, grow your customer list, enhance marketing, and support your local community. For every dollar spent at a small business, around 67 cents stays in the local community.

Preparing for Small Business Saturday during a global pandemic takes some advance planning and a little creativity. Many small businesses across the country are focusing their efforts on partnering with other small business owners in their area, and they plan to offer storewide discounts to their customers, among other perks.

By participating in Small Business Saturday, you can build brand awareness, grow your customer list, enhance marketing, and support your local community.

Discounts and email blasts

In Houston’s East End, Robert Lopez, owner of Kickin’ Kombucha, plans to increase — in time for Small Business Saturday — the number of local businesses he has selling food and drink products in his kombucha taproom.

Lopez buys products like queso by Little Kitchen HTX and garlic chives from urban farm Finca Tres Robles at wholesale, and then sells them for a small mark-up. Customers can order online, and Lopez has also opened a drive-through pickup window to distribute products. He delivers twice a week to customers within a 30-mile radius as well.

“It’s a place where people can come and support a ton of Houston-based business,” Lopez said. “We want to try to help our small business connections through this time. No other place in town has what we have, and it’s working really well. This is my city, and I don’t want to see it dominated by a bunch of chains.”

Lopez also makes good use of social media, highlighting one of the two dozen businesses he helps support on Instagram each week. On Small Business Saturday, he plans to extend a flat 10% discount for all in-person, drive-through and delivery orders. He’ll send email blasts about the discount so customers are well aware ahead of time.

Other potential Small Business Saturday ideas include partnering with a local business on a special kombucha flavor for that weekend, and possibly having a local street artist complete an on-site mural to be debuted that Saturday.

Giving free gifts and gift wrapping

In Seattle, Shandon Graybeal, owner of Alair gift shop, started planning early for Small Business Saturday. She came up with several ideas for the day since her shop’s 4-year anniversary follows shortly after.

“I’m going to try to make a big deal out of it since we survived this year,” she said.

Customers will receive a gift with every purchase — “Happy Anniversary” cookies from the nearby Jenn’s Cookie Jar. She’ll also have extended hours and will give customers a percentage discount for the entire weekend. Last year on Small Business Saturday, her customers received 15% off that Saturday and everyone got a free coffee from the local Realfine Coffee.

“I try to partner with as many other local businesses as possible,” Graybeal said.

This year, Graybeal is considering partnering with the coffee shop again, but would need to figure out how to do so safely so customers remain masked inside her store at all times. One possibility is to give out free coffee to-go as customers leave the shop. Once she settles on her discount and partnerships, she’ll advertise over email.

“I’m also going to let people know that, if they wait until the last minute to buy their holiday gifts, they might not be able to get the gifts they want because some vendors are having trouble getting supplies.”

“I’m also going to let people know that, if they wait until the last minute to buy their holiday gifts, they might not be able to get the gifts they want because some vendors are having trouble getting supplies,” she said.

Other plans include bringing in staff from neighborhood nonprofits — on weekends from Small Business Saturday until Christmas Eve — to do a donation-based gift-wrapping. Graybeal did that last year as well, purchasing the gift-wrapping supplies herself. The nonprofits provide the wrapping volunteers and take home all donations.

Last year she partnered with Forgotten Dogs Rescue, the nonprofit from which she adopted her shop dog, Dillan, among other groups. Graybeal sends out an online calendar and the non-profits sign up for a slot.

Prepare ahead of time

Other Small Business Saturday ideas include:

1) Expand the types of payments you accept. If you aren’t using mobile payments, consider getting set up for them. Many customers prefer to pay with a mobile wallet.

2) Offer a promotion or discount. Possible options could include buy 1 get 1 free, a store-wide percentage discount, or a free product — perhaps a free mask for coming in.

3) Plan an outdoor market. If you’re anticipating a rush of customers, you might consider holding an outdoor market instead. You can have more space and better air circulation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

4) Enhance your online shopping. Ahead of Small Business Saturday, make sure shopping on your website is seamless and that all products are featured with a photo. If you don’t have an online shopping option on your site, add one.

5) Expand your curbside service. If many of your customers are likely to place curbside orders, you may want to hire extra help for the weekend.

6) Collect customers’ contact information. When you ring up a customer, get their contact information, including their email, so you can add them to your marketing list.

7) Use hashtags on social media. On Twitter, hashtags like #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat will alert customers to your special promotions.

8) Use free physical distancing materials. American Express has free in-store signage to alert customers to physical distancing, including “Please wait here” signs.

While Small Business Saturday this year will look very different from past years, with a little work ahead of time, you can still attract plenty of customers — whether it’s through your doors, to your parking lot for curbside, or to your website for home delivery.

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