(TNS) – Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent two of the busiest days of the holiday shopping season. But in between them lies an opportunity for small-business owners to claim a share of holiday shoppers’ budgets.

Small Business Saturday is a way to celebrate small-business owners and what they contribute to their local communities.

Though supply chain challenges and social distancing requirements persist, Small Business Saturday 2021 could be one of the most significant yet for locally-owned businesses. According to the American Express Shop Small Impact Survey, 56 percent of small businesses surveyed said this year’s Small Business Saturday event is more critical than ever for their business. Looking ahead to the new year, 78 percent said holiday sales will impact their ability to keep their doors open in 2022.

There is some good news, however. The National Retail Federation is predicting the highest holiday retail sales on record for 2021. Collectively, consumers are expected to spend up to $859 billion this holiday season, with up to $226 billion earmarked for online purchases.

If you own a business, these tips can help you prepare for Small Business Saturday success.

What is Small Business Saturday?

American Express Small Business Saturday first began in 2010 as an effort to shine a spotlight on small businesses. The purpose of this yearly event is to remind and encourage consumers to shop small and support independent businesses online and offline alike.

Since then, it’s grown into an annual event that saw consumers spend an estimated $19.8 billion in 2020, according to the American Express 2020 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey. Collectively, American Express estimates that consumers have spent more than $140 billion supporting small businesses since the event’s inception.

Small businesses benefit from increased sales during the holiday season, which then benefits the communities they occupy. According to American Express, 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business — whether it’s a retail store, restaurant or another company—stays in the community.

Small Business Saturday 2021 could help to boost small-business owners who have faced difficulties during the pandemic. According to American Express research, 80 percent of customers polled said they’re likely to shop small this holiday season.

When is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday always falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s scheduled this way so that small-business owners have an opportunity to compete with larger brands as consumers get their holiday shopping underway.

Small Business Saturday 2021 lands on Nov. 27 this year. And if you’re interested in planning ahead, pencil in Nov. 26 for 2022 and Nov. 25 for 2023.

How to participate in Small Business Saturday

American Express Small Business Saturday is designed to promote small businesses of all kinds, including those that operate online as well as traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. In fact, Small Business Saturday 2021 has been designed to bring a digitally-integrated holiday shopping experience to local communities.

You don’t need to sign up or register your business to participate in the event. If you want to promote the event, you can do so with free marketing materials from American Express. This includes downloadable materials you can use to advertise Small Business Saturday online or in-store, including:

n Posters and other signage that include Small Business Saturday quotes

n Social media post graphics and copy

Separate Small Business Saturday kits that include event merchandise are available by request. These are first-come, first-served, and quantity is limited.

For Small Business Saturday 2021, American Express is offering a variety of signage to encourage safe shopping through social distancing. This year’s marketing materials also include artist-designed signage to promote inclusivity and encourage shoppers to make connections with their local business community.

The Shop Small map makes it easy for consumers to find businesses that participate in Small Business Saturday. You can ask to be added to the map if you meet these requirements:

n Your business accepts American Express cards as a form of payment.

n You’re located in the 50 states, District of Columbia or a U.S. territory.

n You have at least one but no more than 25 locations and no more than $5 million in American Express annual charge volume.

n You’re not part of a franchise.

n Your business isn’t in an excluded industry.

Small Business Saturday ideas for 2021

If you’re hoping to capitalize on Small Business Saturday this year, getting a head start on planning can help. But regardless of when you begin preparing, there are certain things you can do to make the most of this event.

1. Download the free marketing materials

American Express makes it easy to promote Small Business Saturday by providing you with the marketing tools to do it. So if you haven’t downloaded them from the Small Business Saturday website yet, that’s a good place to start.

You can also ask to have your business added to the Shop Small map. If you’re already featured on the map, review your listing to make sure it’s up to date.

2. Get your physical (or virtual) storefront ready

If you’re banking on Small Business Saturday driving in a flood of customers, then it’s important to make sure you’re prepared to welcome them, either in-person or online.

For example, if you run a brick-and-mortar boutique, start by checking the layout. It should be easy for customers to navigate their way through your store while observing social distancing requirements.

Merchandising and displays also matter for drawing attention to the items you want to sell. And your point of sale system should be running smoothly so that there are no snafus when you have a line of customers waiting to check out.

You’ll want to run similar stress tests if you operate an online storefront. Check your site to ensure items you want to sell are highlighted appropriately and the checkout is working. Be on the lookout for broken links or bugs that could turn shoppers away.

3. Take part in a local Small Business Saturday event

Joining a local Small Business Saturday event can help boost your business’s visibility and potentially lead to more sales.

There are two ways you can approach this. The first is looking for Small Business Saturday happenings in your local community. Local organizations, including small business nonprofits and chambers of commerce often sponsor Small Business Saturday events.

American Express maintains a list of Neighborhood Champions, which are organizations that support Small Business Saturday and shopping locally. You can search for Neighborhood Champions in your area through the Small Business Saturday website.

The other idea is to host a Small Business Saturday event of your own. You could organize a charity event to raise funds for a good cause while encouraging customers to shop with your business. Or you might consider a cross-promotion with another small business.

4. Launch your holiday sales promotions

Just as big-box stores use Black Friday and Cyber Monday to promote sales, you can do the same to attract customers on Small Business Saturday. First, decide what type of promotion you want to offer. For example, you might consider:

n Buy one (or two), get one free promotions

n Offering certain items at a discount

n Throwing in a freebie or two with a purchase

n Hosting a raffle or contest

When planning Small Business Saturday sales, keep an eye on the bottom line. Slashing prices, for example, could help you compete with bigger-name retailers, but it could also shrink your profit margins. So think carefully about how to craft sales promotions so that you aren’t sacrificing revenue to get people in the door.

Also, consider how you can keep customers coming back once Small Business Saturday ends. Collecting email addresses for a raffle, for instance, gives you a pathway to continue marketing to customers after the holiday season draws to a close.

5. Fine-tune your marketing plans

Putting up signs in-store or on your website to let shoppers know about Small Business Saturday and other holiday sales is a good start. But there’s more you can do to market your business throughout the season. That might include:

n Sending out email newsletters

n Promoting Small Business Saturday sales on Facebook, Twitter or other social media

n Investing in newspaper or TV ads

n Setting up a cross-promotion with another business

When planning how to market your business during the holidays, consider what could give you the best return for your money to make sure your spending counts.

Don’t let Small Business Saturday pass you by

Small Business Saturday comes just once a year, so it’s important to make the most of it. It could be especially critical for 2021 as businesses struggle with the financial impacts of the pandemic, including supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages. Putting these strategies to work can help your small business thrive during the holiday season and all year round.

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