Mom-and-pop businesses across south Louisiana will get their chance to shine on Small Business Saturday, which has grown to be a $14.3 billion event since it was established five years ago.
American Express created the event in 2010 as a way of helping small companies at the low point of the national recession. The credit card giant partnered with the National Federation of Independent Business to raise awareness of small businesses.
“The number of consumers who are aware that Small Business Saturday exists is up 55 percent,” said Dawn Starns, state director of the NFIB. According to information released by American Express and Starns, 83 percent of shoppers said promotions for the event make them want to shop at small businesses year-round.
While American Express used to give shoppers a rebate for making purchases at participating small businesses on Small Business Saturday, the company said on its website the credits will be eliminated this year. Instead, American Express is beefing up the marketing help it is giving to participating stores.
“Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for shopkeepers to really shine,” Starns said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to win customers who’ll continue to support them throughout the year.”
According to the NFIB and American Express, in 2014, shoppers spent $14.3 billion at locally owned stores and restaurants on Small Business Saturday. That was an increase of about 2.1 percent from the year before. About 88 million people made purchases on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, an increase of nearly 15 percent.
This year, the NFIB is encouraging small businesses to use the day to promote their business in a number of ways, from letting customers know about unique items, using the hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSaturday across social media platforms and registering to get their store included on an interactive map at nfib.com/small-business-saturday.
“We’re working not only with our retail members but with restaurant owners,” Starns said. “It makes a lot of sense to partner up with retailers and do a special, because a lot of the people who are going to be out shopping are going to eat.” That includes offering free appetizers or discounted meals if customers show a receipt from a local small business, she said.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber is encouraging local businesses to participate in Small Business Saturday. According to BRAC, more than 99 percent of local businesses are defined as small businesses, and more than 80 percent of regional workers are employed by small businesses.
In New Orleans, Stay Local, an independent business alliance, will sponsor a Small Business Saturday Second Line, starting at 11 a.m., beginning at the Community Book Center at 2523 Bayou Road. In addition to the parade, Santa Claus will be on hand.
Sherrie Hope, owner of Modern Market, a furniture and lifestyle store on Magazine Street in New Orleans, said she’s seen a 25 percent increase in customer traffic on Small Business Saturday. This year, she plans to offer sales of up to 50 percent off some clearance items for the event, along with free gift wrapping and some free shipping. “It’s been really great for getting people out shopping and supporting local businesses,” Hope said. “For small businesses, at the root of it is passion, supporting the community and keeping the individuals that make Magazine Street unique.”
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.