Small Business Saturday is a good thing. But this year–and all subsequent ones, if you ask us–let’s celebrate a season of small, a season of local. Why settle for just one day?

If you ask a child about something they like, most of them will tell you two is better than one and three is even better than that. When it comes to shopping small, we have to concur. A whole season celebrating the efforts and offerings of small business is better than just one day.

Here’s why and how to create an entire shopping small/shopping local season either instead of or in addition to Small Business Saturday. We believe this is one of the best ways you can use your marketing efforts as 2021 winds down.

Why Shop Small?

Many small businesses were hit exceptionally hard because of their lack of e-commerce options. While big box stores gobbled up the lion’s share of online orders (Walmart’s online orders increased by 79% in the 3rd quarter of 2020 alone), many small businesses struggled to launch an online component, much less market that one was available. It was a hard learned lesson and one many simply weren’t prepared for.

When we talk about shopping small or shopping local, we always mention how the money stays in town. But let’s break that down a bit so that you can share these statistics in your Small Business Saturday or Season marketing.

According to Fundera, “small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them.” On the other hand, it’s estimated that for every $100 spent at a large business, only $43 stays in the community, according to the Civic Economics Study in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Get the entire infographic created by and sponsored by Nav here.

A local business that is thriving and growing is also much more likely to:

  • Hire more employees
  • Support a local sports team or PTA
  • Sponsor an event
  • Give to a local nonprofit or charity. According to the Seattle Good Business Network, small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to non-profits and community causes.
  • Give bonuses to employees
  • Expand into a new product or service line
  • Pay employees more or be able to afford offering benefits or better benefits or employee perks
  • Move into a larger location, which may help a landlord who hasn’t been able to rent the space
  • Pay additional tax dollars that help fund local needs like police, fire, and infrastructure

Some chambers worry that when they instruct shoppers to “buy small” they are alienating larger businesses. That is likely not true. After all, there are 28.8 million small businesses in the country and they account for 99.7% of all business in the US.

Plus, there is a difference between shopping small and shopping local.

Shop local suggests people should support local businesses that started and operate within your city or area. These are mom and pop businesses.

Shop small, on the other hand, has a much more encompassing reach with a small business defined by the SBA as any business employing less than 500 people with revenue under $7.5 million. Small Business Saturday as launched by American Express is likely using this definition (Small Business Saturday is a registered trademark of American Express).

Chambers that don’t want to alienate some members may advance the shop small cause, instead of shop local, although the marketing campaigns are often considered the same.

$10 is Enough For Small Business Saturday or Season

As we run shop local campaigns, we often pitch the idea that any amount helps. Customers may wonder if that is true. Can ten dollars spent at a local store really have that large of an impact on the community? What’s the difference buying something on Amazon or a big box store, rather than a local one?

But the impact is sizable.

It’s estimated that over $9.3 billion would be returned to our US economy if every family spent just $10 a month at a local business. That’s not even one one meal of spending a month! It’s really only a few cups of coffee or a glass of wine a month. What a tremendous impact we could have if everyone could commit to that.

And we’re not suggesting additional spending. We’re simply advising willing supporters to switch the $10 a month they’re currently spending elsewhere to $10 with local businesses.

$10 dollars!

That’s it and that small spend can have a huge impact.

But why stop there?

The Season of Small Business Saturday Expands

American Express, Amazon, and others large companies have done a commendable job at bringing attention to the vulnerability of small business these days. Those who were operating with minimal profits and savings were hit extremely hard by the COVID closures.

Many big businesses stepped up to help and starting running funds, offering grants, contests, marketing, and sales opportunities for small businesses on their well-known e-commerce sites.

Amazon and Walmart both allow independent sellers or small businesses on their sites, for instance. Lenovo offered small business and minority-owned business grants as did Fed Ex.

But while these programs are wonderful, your chamber is better suited to be able to ensure that individual small businesses in your community get the assistance they need. Here are a list of ideas for programs you can create to help your community celebrate small businesses more than one day a year.

  • host a lunch and learn on localized marketing opportunities in all budgets for small businesses.
  • launch social media campaigns and posting the importance of shopping local.
  • send email or newsletter campaigns.
  • post stories of local business people showing their struggles and their brave/fighting spirits (think of the Modelo beer commercials).
  • create testimonials from people who owe what they have to small businesses such as the Little League team who went to Cooperstown last summer because of a generous donation from one of the local businesses.
  • produce a shop local video highlighting several businesses.
  • create a gift-giving guide featuring gift ideas from local stores.
  • print a local discount or coupon book or create a virtual version.
  • send postcards and special offers.
  • host an artisans festival, expo, or fair.
  • give out shop small stickers.
  • gift goody bags for shoppers.
  • design social media or website badges in support of shopping small.
  • add a shop small email signatures.
  • pitch stories to the local media.
  • market your small businesses online presence. Some people may not realize their favorite local stores offer online sales or delivery options.
  • market the businesses as people, not businesses. Focus on owners, employees, and customers. Help shoppers get to know who you’re asking them to support.
  • bring it to the school level and educate future buyers about the importance of shopping local.
  • borrow from “It’s a Wonderful Life” and show your town what it would be like without local or small businesses.
  • host a holiday countdown featuring a few local businesses each day
  • hide your elf on a shelf around local businesses
  • encourage people to buy local gift cards or local currency instead of the box store gift cards
  • create a shop local-poly event (example from Amesbury Chamber)
  • host a shop local contest (check out these example from Lindale Chamber of Commerce)
  • create a shopping passport, punch card, or bingo. The customer receives stamps for every purchase made at businesses in your town.

Finally, another way to support small is to assist them from the inside out. Ensure they have the information they need to create a functioning e-commerce site, that they have access and information about grant and loan options, that they’re able to find the employee help they need. There are many ways to help small businesses as you encourage your audience to buy from them.

When you are launching your shop small or shop local campaigns, consider how much more effective they might be if you focus your energies on a culture shift in your area, not simple “one and done” day of shopping. Small businesses need your support all through the holiday season and beyond. When you take the time to educate your community, shifting from a day to much more will be a natural progression as they see the benefits of their support.