Business development · 4 December 2017

Small Business Saturday 2017 undermined by Black Friday furore

Small Business Saturday 2017 landed just one week after the Black Friday sales weekend
Small Business Saturday 2017 landed just one week after the Black Friday sales weekend

After the curtains drew on Small Business Saturday 2017, we asked a panel of small business owners whether the campaign generated enough traction to increase sales, and if the growing prominence of Black Friday threatens to undermine a day dedicated to supporting independent firms.

In 2016, UK consumers spent £717m at independent shops on Small Business Saturday, and local authorities, government ministers, banks and enterprise champions all took to social media to promote what local stores were offering this year. But, with Britain’s online retailers alone recently taking £1.4bn on Black Friday, the eyes of consumers remain weighted towards discounts and sales.

UK prime minister Theresa May and US president Donald Trump both voiced support for their respective campaigns this year, encouraging citizens to support their local businesses.

While Trump’s 11,000 retweets – and 44m followers – guaranteed exposure for the US campaign, May’s modest 402 shares failed to reach the same number of Twitter feeds.

“Only one customer mentioned it”

Small Business Saturday was launched in the US seven years ago by American Express, and the bank remains a close supporter and sponsor of the UK campaign. To encourage card holders to shop with independent businesses this year, American Express is awarding a £5 statement credit each time they spend £10 or more at participating small businesses between 2 and 17 December.

However, some feel the bank’s ties to Small Business Saturday 2017 remained too far under the radar.

Jez Greenspan, founder of South West London wine shop The Wine Twit, told Business Advice that he had experienced only a muted customer response on the day.

“As a whole, the idea really is great –  but as a small business owner with a substantial customer base using American Express, I would have expected to hear more,” Greenspan noted.

“The day itself was successful, but only one customer actually mentioned it directly. I’d say further promotion, or incentive, is needed to really drive awareness and get people involved in shopping with, and supporting, their small local businesses.”

Elsewhere, Al Keck, founder of ecommerce agency Infinity Nation, feels that more could be done to integrate small digital businesses into the initiative. He told us of his surprise at how little awareness there was of Small Business Saturday among his clients.

A straw poll of the retailers we work with who sell online – such as Tracklements and Moloh – and also my staff who work in retail daily, have found awareness levels around Small Business Saturday are really low,” Keck explained.

“I haven’t been targeted with any marketing messages on this over the last few years – and I get a wide variety of email communication from retailers, media and trade bodies.”

“A missed opportunity”

Referring to the range of companies his own firm works with, which could help develop strategies to promote Small Business Saturday, Keck said the day felt like “a missed opportunity”.

“Either American Express is targeting badly or not broadly enough,” he added.

Reflecting on how Small Business Saturday went for her company, Kimberly Hurd, CEO of independent food marketplace Tabl, said the campaign had worked well overall.

“There was a real increase in engagement on social media when we were highlighting the small businesses we work with, and an increase in sales,” she told Business Advice.

Hurd explained that the powerful marketing offensive undertaken by almost every major retailer in Britain over the Black Friday weekend encouraged consumers to spend with high street chains offering the biggest discounts, leaving small businesses out in the cold.

“While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great shopping events and effective in driving sales, often the first and largest beneficiaries aren’t small businesses,” she added.

“It’s hard for smaller and independent companies to break through the marketing noise of the larger players. Small Business Saturday provides a unique opportunity to do so and ability to do so.”

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Michelle Ovens

 

Small Business Saturday’s Michelle Ovens reveals what’s holding back the UK high street

As the director behind one of the country’s most successful small business campaigns, Michelle Ovens has a unique view of the landscape for Britain’s high street retailers and traders.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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