This year's Small Business Saturday, where consumers are encouraged to support their local small businesses two days after Thanksgiving, will be the biggest one yet, says Small Business Administrator Karen Mills.
"We see tremendous momentum out there," says Mills, who bought blueberry jam last Small Business Saturday at a farmers market in Brunswick, Mass., and brought it back to her colleagues at work. "This Small Business Saturday has really gone viral."
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Small businesses can't usually compete with big-box stores' big sales on Black Friday, so many hope to use Small Business Saturday to get a piece of the action during the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
Small Business Saturday is the most important shopping day of the season for 36% of independent retailers, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Only 24% say that day is Black Friday.
Ross Steinman, psychology professor at Widener University, says the popularity of Small Business Saturday is a revolt against big-box stores from consumers who are willing to pay extra and see the money go to their communities.
"There's so much negative attention in recent years on Black Friday and the rampant consumerism that's associated with it," he says. "Small Business Saturday is a response to that."
Jim Brownell, VP of retail solutions for GT Nexus, says that Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for retailers because there will be "a lot of feet on the street," but it won't work unless they get the word out about promotions.
"It's unfortunately going to require some sort of service promotion or product promotion to draw people into the stores," Brownell says. "You can't sit back and hope that the SBA with all their advertising is really going to be the ones that will bring everybody in."
Alan Au, co-owner of Jimmy Au's For Men 5'8" and Under, a fancy clothing store for shorter men, says he plans on having a big Small Business Saturday sale on pretty much everything, but what he won't do is advertise the sale beyond individual invitations to customers.
"The more full the store is, the harder it is to help anybody," says Au. "I function a lot better with a steady stream of customers.
When Au's store was in the Glendale, Calif., shopping mall, his Black Friday sales drew customers who were already in the mall to make other purchases.
However, once the store moved to a street location in Beverly Hills, he found he was trying to compete with the big retailers at the mall, whose Black Friday crowds he previously relied on for customers.
"We tried to compete against that with some really killer deals, but we can't beat something like that," says Au. Now he holds the sale on Saturday.