THE tradition of Small Business Saturday was adopted by us from our American counterparts in 2013. For us, it’s the first Saturday in December and the aim is to ensure consumers put an extra focus on shopping local and supporting small businesses in the lead up to Christmas. Placed in the same week as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, its message has to be louder and stronger than those only interested in selling us a bargain.
Most of us associate Black Friday, with the start of the Christmas shopping season. Major supermarkets and global high street retailers work to entice us in, with headline grabbing bargains. If you miss these bargains, then there is always Cyber Monday- just two days later, when all the online bargains can be had. Both days now etched in the consumer holiday calendar and both creating plenty of bargain noise and jingle.
Then comes along Small Business Saturday placed just a few days later and in the same week. Consumers are now asked to shop, not for a bargain but to support local communities by buying from small businesses.
Among all the bargain noise the message is now more of an appeal to our sense of community and social conscience, rather than any personal gain. This requires a shift in the consumer psyche and all within a few days so it’s easy to see why the consumer might get mixed up and want to look for bargains in the small business sector.
It goes without saying that small businesses do not have the capacity or buying power to compete with global brands on price. Leaving discounting to them, the success of Small Business Saturday must lie in its ability to shout louder than Black Friday or Cyber Monday about the direct benefits to the consumer of buying local.
The quality of personal service provided by a local business, the freshness of local produce available, the uniqueness of local designers and the craft of local artisans. Many small businesses are now showing great ability to be flexible in their approach to consumers and going that extra bit to personalise their service. It's also time to recognise that many small local businesses now trade on the internet and shopping local is no longer just about the high street.
Understanding this, Google have now launched a new small business filter for search and maps, allowing us to find products offered online by local retailers that identify as small businesses. Products include e-commerce brands, local businesses and sellers from marketplaces like Etsy and eBay.
In short, coming quickly on the back of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday needs to grow a big set of lungs and shout loud in a very noisy week.
:: Michelle Lestas is a business turnaround specialist, published author on small business leadership and founder of the accredited MENTup and LEADup programmes