All year, holidays and events such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Black Friday drive customers to stores. As a small business, staying at the forefront of these holidays and events can help you stay relevant in your community. They also provide a great opportunity to create a memorable experience for your customers.

That’s why it’s important to take time to prepare for one of the year’s best sales events: Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is an event created by American Express in 20101. It takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to shop small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses. In 2011, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day, and officials in all 50 states participated.

Register for Small Business Saturday

Get started with Small Business Saturday by registering your small business2 for the event. Registration is free, and all you have to do is add your business listing to American Express’s Shop Small Map. It’s that easy.

Benefits of Small Business Saturday

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday falls in the heart of holiday shopping season. This is a day when consumers spend and, as a small business, it’s an opportunity to maximize revenues and strengthen your brand through an effective sales strategy.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 3 — a co-sponsor of Small Business Saturday — in 2020, “American consumers spent an estimated $19.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday,” an increase over the previous year. 2020 data also shows that online shopping at small businesses was up significantly, “with 56% of shoppers making a purchase online, up from 43% in 2019.”

More than 50% of Americans who reported4 shopping small on the day said they supported a small business through social media by endorsing local shops or shopping at a small business because of a recommendation on social media.

When is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday falls on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can find the specific date for this year and next by checking the Small Business Saturday annual schedule.5 Start planning your sales strategy early so you can start driving business before the actual day.

Small Business Saturday tips

The data is clear: Small Business Saturday can be a success for small businesses if an effective sales strategy is in place. Gather your team and discuss how you want to promote your business during this event.

Before you build your plan, be sure to update your listing on local directories and review sites—especially Google My Business.

Here is a basic process to follow to create a Small Business Saturday strategy:

  1. Set a Small Business Saturday goal: The most important part of any plan is the goal. Think about what you want to achieve and the message you want to convey.
  2. Create an offer: Consider what products or services you want to promote and what kind of Small Business Saturday discount or incentive you can offer, along with the projected sales for each that will be required to achieve your goal.
  3. Write your promotional plan: Build a communication and social media plan that shares your promotions and deals no less than four weeks out from the event. Start with a promotional budget. Many promotions can be done for free or at a low cost through signage, email and social media. If you’re an online store, your social media strategy will serve as one of the most important tools to drive traffic to your site. Consider promoting a small discount on e-gift cards as an incentive for your customers to purchase and use them on your site. If your business has a physical location, be sure to leverage storefront signage and consider offering coffee, tea, water or wine as guests peruse your store.
  4. Execute your plan: Commit to making your sales event happen. A detailed project plan can help you stay on track and ensure you’ll have the promotional assets, signage, inventory and staff ready when they’re needed.
  5. Analyze the results of your Small Business Saturday promotion: Did you achieve your goal? Did you stay within budget? What worked? What did not?
    Gather customer feedback and incorporate it and your analysis into plans for next year.

Whether you’re a walk-in store or an online store, it is crucial that you commit to consistent messaging. You do not want to confuse your audience — your next potential customer — with watered-down or mixed messages. Reinforce the same point and ensure it addresses your customer’s needs. Here are a few tips to consider when creating your plan:

1. Prepare for both in-store and online shopping

As we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses are re-emerging in new ways as they attempt to create and maintain positive, inviting customer experiences.

Small business storefront owners should make sure to have enough items in stock and that the attention-grabbing signage is displayed to interest customers and invite them in to peruse inventory and make a purchase. Consider how you can create a warm and welcoming in-store experience. Welcoming music, candles and scented oils can be effective strategies for retail stores. Scents like lemon, lime and orange have been found to pick up spirits instantly.6

If you’re an online business only, it’s just as essential to ensure that the items you’re displaying on your site are, indeed, in stock. Do not showcase what you don’t have in stock; it will only drive the customer away to find the item elsewhere. Next, make sure your order fulfillment and shipping process is ready to handle the increased demand.

2. Offer sales and discounts

As Small Business Saturday falls in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there are benefits of offering a Small Business Saturday sale or promotion that are both in-person and online that will help draw customers into your business.

A few ideas:

  • Offer a gift for purchases made during your Small Business Saturday sale.
  • Create a raffle, and when purchases are made, the customer’s name is entered.
  • If your business is more service-related, offer a discount on your services on Small Business Saturday.

3. Spread awareness online

Many promotions can be done for free or at a low cost through signage, email and social media. With sound planning and execution, you can boost potential customers’ awareness of your Small Business Saturday event.

Visit our Local Marketing and Advertising Strategies page to learn more about:

  • Conducting market research and formulating a plan
  • Leveraging online tools for local advertising
  • Free enterprise and social media
  • Paid media
  • Paid digital marketing

4. Host a Small Business Saturday event

Small Business Saturday events can be either in-person or online and can also involve partnering with other businesses.

If there are several small businesses on one block, it may make sense to gather and create a collective “progressive shopping experience,” where shoppers are encouraged to go from store-to-store.

5. Extend business hours

Your store may be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday but when it comes to Small Business Saturday, consider opening earlier and staying open later to maximize the number of sales you can make.

Learn more about running and promoting your small business

Small Business Saturday has emerged as one of many successful sales events that take place throughout the year. The reason this event is so unique is that it specifically caters to small businesses and their importance in the neighborhoods and communities they serve. With shoppers trending toward local business, Small Business Saturday is an opportunity business owners won’t want to miss.

Nationwide’s Business Solutions Center offers additional resources for small businesses.

1 American Express. Let’s go shop small (n.d.). Retrieved from:
2 American Express. Shop Small Map (n.d.). Retrieved from:
3 Small Business Administration. Retrieved from:
4 Pilcher, Jennifer (2020). Nearly $20B spent by Americans this Small Business Saturday®. Retrieved from:
5 About Small Business Saturday (n.d.). Retrieved from:
6 a retailer’s guide to scenting department stores & boutiques (2019). Retrieved from:
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