Is Small Business Saturday losing steam?

Discussion
Photo: American Express
Nov 30, 2021

American Express said sales on the 12th Small Business Saturday, November 27, reached an all-time high, but other reports point to challenges facing local shops this holiday season.

American Express’ Consumer Insights Survey taken on November 28 estimated spending among U.S. consumers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday reached $23.3 billion, up 18.9 percent from pre-pandemic spending in 2019 ($19.6 billion).

Of those surveyed, 64 percent stated they make it a priority to seek out and shop at businesses run by underrepresented owners in their communities, given the challenges many faced during the pandemic.

A survey commissioned by LendingTree taken in mid-October also found 49 percent of Americans planned to participate in Small Business Saturday this year, and 63 percent agreed the pandemic strengthened their loyalty to small businesses. Nearly two in three (63 percent) knew a small business in their community that permanently closed due to the pandemic.

A contrary view came from a CNBC|Momentive survey taken in mid-November that found only 34 percent of consumers planning to shop on Small Business Saturday, up from 30 percent in 2020, but below pre-pandemic levels of 39 percent in 2019 and 44 percent in 2018.

Only eight percent of respondents were most excited about shopping on Small Business Saturday, similar to pre-pandemic levels. That compares to 19 percent being excited about Black Friday, 14 percent for Cyber Monday and 59 percent not being excited about shopping on any of the three days.

“Of course, consumers still have some love for Small Business Saturday, but it doesn’t have the same hype that we might have seen in previous years,” Laura Wronski, senior manager of research science at Momentive, told CNBC.

The survey found 43 percent are worried about supply chain issues with numerous articles noting that larger chains have the leverage and funding to better manage shortages. Concerning supply chain issues, 72 percent said they have noticed an increase in prices in the last three months. Many also report experiencing low or out-of-stock notices (62 percent), staff shortages at local businesses (55 percent) and shipping delays (51 percent).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are Small Business Saturday and overall buy-local movements losing or gaining momentum at this stage of the pandemic? Are consumers preoccupied with other concerns?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The message from local retailers should be “Shop local, our supply chain is not broken.”"
"These initiatives are community driven and customers are more conscious of their shopping habits than ever before."
"Anecdotally, our small business clients are happy; for them, Small Business Saturday was a good day."

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20 Comments on "Is Small Business Saturday losing steam?"


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Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

There’s a lot going in with small business right now. Between COVID and supply-chain challenges, shoppers will mostly go where they can find what they want. While I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in this year’s survey for that reason, there is a question of how relevant Small Business Saturday is in an e-com world.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

It’s the latter — preoccupied with other concerns. Small business initiatives should continue and surveys are not the way to measure interest in spending at small/local business, sales are.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

In my hometown (fewer than 100,000 people), the local media are running spots to support local businesses, as they have during the entire pandemic. I would hope that small businesses would be in contention for shopper dollars, or else we’re going to see an eroding of an essential component of our economy.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Honestly, RW, what is with the drumbeat of negativity? Yesterday, Black Friday down, now an online SBS survey. Seriously? One online survey gets this coverage? Give me a break. I have clients up 50% and more. Real numbers. Real businesses. IRL. Retail needs all the help it can get. The doom-and-gloom, just looking for an opportunity to get clicks, has gotten old … real old.

Rick Moss
Staff

IDK, Bob, your survey only includes retailers who had the benefit of your advice. If that was the story for all small businesses, they wouldn’t need you ; )

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Actually Rick, I don’t survey my clients nor then try to get clicks like this survey. I simply was sharing some IRL.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
1 year 9 days ago

I don’t believe that either “small business” or “shop local” concepts are losing steam. However, the pace of technology and the social consequence of COVID-related social concerns definitely give a temporary advantage to larger and internet-enabled retailers.

In the long-term, the costs and advantages of technology drop dramatically and become widely democratized. The early mainframe computers being a perfect example of technology being initially beyond the reach of small businesses, but ultimately computer technology has become cheap and pervasive. As big data, AI, high-bandwidth connectivity, and augmented reality become nearly universal, small and local retailers will develop business models that leverage their dimensions of competitive strength: personalization, customer service, proximity, relationships, etc.

This won’t end the competition between large and small. It will just continue to evolve, with clever business minds looking for competitive advantage.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Small Business Saturday sales were up while Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were flat or down. That alone tells us something.

When people shop local, they can see what’s in stock. No mystery about whether their size and color are still out to sea. The message from local retailers should be “Shop local, our supply chain is not broken.”

We’re supporting a local Boston initiative that provides free delivery from local shops and their online stores for the holidays. Anything that will give some advantage to the small retailers that the big stores just can’t offer this year.

Don’t get me wrong, small retailers are usually the last in line for shipments of product to sell. But once it’s in stock, it’s in stock.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

Small Business Saturday and buy-local movements are not losing steam at all. These initiatives are community driven and customers are more conscious of their shopping habits than ever before. Small business digital platform tools like Shopify have been posting record sales over the weekend which tells us that customers are shopping small.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

So American Express, the company that spearheads Small Business Saturday, says sales were “at an all time high” this year, but some mid-November survey, that doesn’t list how many people were polled, taken by a news organization, says Small Business Saturday was a bust. No kidding. Don’t we know by now that the media wants consumers to believe retail is dead? That’s it’s all doom and gloom and good luck buying gifts this year? It’s the apocalypse all over again, folks!

Anecdotally, our small business clients are happy; for them, Small Business Saturday was a good day. So maybe those consumers polled by CNBC weren’t excited about shopping that day, but others certainly were. And the indie retailers who embraced Small Business Saturday and held open houses with specials and entertainment were ready. And rewarded.

George Anderson
Staff

George, I find no fault in your assessment that small retailers probably did just fine on Saturday. You know this segment of the market better than most. Your logic that one group (CNBC) with nothing to gain or lose from a survey finding is somehow more likely to be biased than one (American Express) with actual skin in the game is not, does elude me, I’ll admit.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Supporting small business owners has evolved from a novelty to a necessity. International supply chain chaos has inspired more companies to develop regional networks to reduce risk.

Retail giants know “buy local” is here to stay. That’s why Amazon, Shopify, Etsy and Walmart’s marketplace amplify small brands’ reach all year round, not just on a dedicated day.

This year, consumers are preoccupied with product availability, affordable prices and reliable delivery, which favor the giants.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Black Friday traffic was off 28% according to one report I read and now American Express says Small Business Saturday is up almost 19%. Sounds like buy-local is coming out ahead … way ahead. I know that’s how I am shopping this year.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

The problem is the supply chain. Period.

W. Frank Dell II
BrainTrust

I tend to shop with people I know, be it for merchandise or food. This is the strong appeal for small business. The problem is the pandemic has forced the closing of so many small businesses that there are not many left. Further, online shopping hits the small business first, due to the greater selection offered by the endless aisle. Shop small business really only reaches the early season shoppers. Most have to provide a superior shopping experience as they are not price competitive.

This is a nice industry idea from a good company, but I don’t think it will ever replace Black Friday and Cyber Monday for consumers.

SprawlBusters
Guest
1 year 9 days ago

All the major media outlets from the NYT Wirecutter to Wired Magazine, have “affiliated links” with the big retail chains. They focus exclusively on publicizing “best deals” at the big stores only. Small biz gets kicked to the curb. It’s a way for the media to pile up commissions, leaving small merchants cold. Big Media should be pressured by small biz groups to cut little merchants in on such advertising, like “One of a Kind Wednesday.”

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust
Small business, just like BIG retail, must be prepared for their customers shopping online. I’ve always felt that the smaller, local retailers have an opportunity to build a different — often closer — relationship with their customers that bigger brands. If they build their community and properly engage, they can bolster sales throughout the year, not just on Small Business Saturday. As for the pandemic and new variant(s), every business, large or small, needs to be proactive in their strategy to mitigate or eliminate any slow-down. My prediction is this isn’t going away anytime soon. It could be as common as the flu, and companies (all companies, not just retail) must learn to adjust and manage what is becoming a way of life. This is not easy. We don’t know how big this could get again. We don’t know how the media will super-charge fear. We don’t know what government mandates will force us to change the way we do business. What we do know is that we can react with a solution-focused mindset over… Read more »
StevenE
Guest
As an independent local retailer, I had a great weekend after Thanksgiving all three days BF, SBS, and what we call Santa Sunday were up significantly. However, the Shop Small, Shop Local for the common good mantra has gotten stale and ineffective. Yes shopping local keeps money in the community and supports small local business. Many articles about shopping local say you pay a little more at local shops, but it is worth it to support your community. But is shaming local shoppers to pay a morality tax the way to encourage them to shop local? Shopping local provides the best personal shopping experience and value. When you shop at a local independent retail store: You encounter someone who likely knows, likes, and cares about you. Compared to some creepy algorithm. You interact with people who truly want to serve you and help you make the best choice. Compared to reading anonymous reviews. You receive support from people dedicated to solving any problems you may encounter. Compared to hanging on a support line for hours.… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Opposing forces are at work: the desire to get out in person and buy/do things, versus the reality that we’re ever more used to buying them online (and while this isn’t an issue of local retailers per se, who’s more likely to not have an online presence, your local mom-and-pop or a multibillion dollar megacorp?).

One thing hasn’t changed from before the pandemic though: the pointlessness of fixating on a single day of the year … and ignoring the other 364.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

I have observed that even more people are consciously supporting the buy-local movement than they were before the pandemic. So it’s hard for me to believe the numbers given in this article. Once customers associated with a brand — in support of a cause — continue to shop with them as long as they are able to afford it even if it requires them to spend and travel more.

Moreover, conscious consumers are more resilient to offerings from big corporations. They seek something more than just a product when choosing a brand. Therefore, conscious consumers get more satisfaction shopping from a brand that better serves their taste and aligns with their values.

The Urban Roosters is a great example to prove this point. They support local businesses by connecting them to the customers. Customers, on the other hand, can choose from a variety of options, shop with utmost convenience, and support small businesses all at the same time.

People do, and will continue to, support small businesses no matter what, irrespective of huge corporate deals.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The message from local retailers should be “Shop local, our supply chain is not broken.”"
"These initiatives are community driven and customers are more conscious of their shopping habits than ever before."
"Anecdotally, our small business clients are happy; for them, Small Business Saturday was a good day."

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