Do you cringe at the idea of stampeding to the mall to snag Black Friday deals? Then you might embrace shopping its far saner cousin: Small Business Saturday.
This event was started by American Express in 2010—during the dregs of the Great Recession—as a way to lure shoppers back to main street and encourage folks to buy from local businesses. The idea quickly caught on. As of 2018, over 7,500 stores and organizations in all 50 states participate with deals on anything you might need to stock those boxes under your Christmas tree, and more.
And there’s something in it for you, too: Not only are you getting deals on merchandise, you’re also exposed to plenty of unique stuff that might be tougher to find on, say, a ginormous retailing website named after a river in South America. And wouldn’t it be nice to give your niece a one-of-a-kind hat-and-glove set from that cute knitting shop around the corner rather than that cookie-cutter set everyone will be getting from Gap?
Here’s more about Small Business Saturday, why it’s good for consumers and their communities, as well as how to participate in your area. (And no, you don’t need to use an AmEx card to join in on these deals.)
When is Small Business Saturday?
Small Business Saturday takes place right between two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s no coincidence since its purpose is to serve as a counterpoint to both.
“The Friday and Monday events are a big deal for big-box retailers and online giants, while this day is about supporting small merchants, with an emphasis on brick-and-mortar stores,” explains Kristin McGrath, editor and shopping expert at BlackFriday.com.
And the benefits of shopping this event abound: Shopping at a small business feels good, helps neighbors, and keeps the money you shell out right in your own community. In fact, studies show that for every dollar spent at a local shop, 67 cents gets funneled back into the local economy, keeping those mom and pop businesses running.
A vibrant shopping area not only makes living in your area better, it also enhances your home’s appeal whenever you decide to sell your place.
What are the best Small Business Saturday deals?
Sure, if you’re in need of a megasize flat-screen TV, heading to a Black Friday doorbuster at a chain store makes sense. But if you need something small for a stocking, Yankee swap, or early Hanukkah gift, going local will get you something far more special.
“Small businesses are great for white elephant gifts because you’ll find plenty of unusual items that anyone would like, from coffee beans to soaps and candles,” says McGrath. You can help out local shops by encouraging members of your book club, block association, or office pool to adopt a “small business theme” and buy from local shops downtown.
Lots of items on display on Small Business Saturday are not just sold locally, they’re also likely to be crafted nearby, including wooden items, local clothing, and home decor accessories like pillows and artwork.
“Many jewelry designers can’t get into big-box stores, so you’ll find these unique wares in small local shops,” notes McGrath.
American Express makes it easy to pop in your ZIP code and find participating stores in your area. Head to the Shop Small homepage, and click on “Find Small Businesses Near You.” Another way to plan your shopping is to keep an eye out for signs in store windows that advertise Small Business Saturday participation.
Small merchants often advertise these special Saturday sales on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. And you might sign up for your favorite retailers’ mailing list if they have one, says McGrath. And since many local farmers markets are on Saturdays, this group is a top pick for local shopping.
“The farmers market is made up completely of local merchants, makers, and crafters, so stopping by is an easy way to participate in Small Business Saturday,” says McGrath.
Granted, the savings at small businesses won’t be nearly as impressive as those at the big-box stores on this same weekend, but many shoppers would be happy to pay a little extra if it keeps their local community humming.