Being an independent retailer is tough enough, with national chains and big-box stores steadily pushing into traditional “mom and pop” shopping districts. It’s no wonder that more than 40% of small retailers fail within five years of opening their doors.


So when Small Business Saturday was introduced in 2010 as a way to celebrate independent businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I jumped at the chance to leverage it to help kick off the critical holiday shopping season—and I’ve used it to promote my gift shop, Lulu Burgess, ever since. For us, Small Business Saturday has become even bigger than Black Friday. We typically see a 300% to 400% jump in sales on that day compared to the rest of the year.


As we start planning for Small Business Saturday 2019, here’s a look at how we promote the day to engage customers and drive sales:


Unique promotions

Facebook and Instagram have become the foundation of Lulu Burgess’s marketing strategy, so we begin advertising our Small Business Saturday promotions and events weeks ahead of time. I download images, logos and other marketing material from the American Express Shop Small site, using it in our social media posts and email marketing campaigns.


This year, I also plan to promote Small Business Saturday in my weekly “Filmtastic Friday” videos that I post on Facebook. I’ve been doing these videos for about eight years, and four years ago I started including my wing-woman, Nelle Smith. She’s 87 years old and the quintessential Southern Belle. People just love her. We get around 1,500 views every week, which is pretty impressive considering Beaufort, South Carolina, only has about 12,000 residents.


Finally, on November 30, the date of this year’s Small Business Saturday, we’ll live stream from the store over Facebook.


Small Business Saturday deals

Of course, we’ve needed to have something special to promote in our marketing, so we always offer Small Business Saturday discounts or freebies. This year, for example, we’ll probably mark down all of our clothing 20% to 30% for the day. Last year we marked down our jewelry—we always have a special sale that day.


Because it’s only one day, I like to maximize every minute, so we open early—8:30 a.m. instead of the usual 10 a.m.—and entice early-bird shoppers with free gifts. This year, we plan to give away a fun coffee mug to the first 30 shoppers who spend $25 or more. In the past, we’ve given away things like scarves, jewelry and candles.


Although we don’t get many people coming just for the giveaway—we usually get 15 to 20 shoppers eager to claim their freebie—it’s still an important part of our marketing because it’s something I can promote on Facebook and Instagram. So even if our followers don’t want to get up early for a free mug, they get a reminder that it’s Small Business Saturday, and maybe that will get them downtown to shop later that day.


Strength in numbers

Our downtown merchants association tries to get all of the small businesses involved to help attract a critical mass of shoppers coming downtown for the day, and the City of Beaufort promotes the day on its Facebook page. This year, we’re hoping a local radio station will broadcast from the shopping district. This collaboration among small businesses creates a festive atmosphere, generating excitement and word-of-mouth marketing in our community—while further ensuring a great day at their registers.


Thanks to the growing national recognition around supporting local shops on Small Business Saturday, it’s a no-brainer for a small business like mine not only to participate but to find intriguing ways to promote it.



Print this article