We interrupt this Thanksgiving to bring you ... Black Friday. I may have been morally opposed to stores' early start on the holiday shopping season, but I can't argue with the results. A record 226 million shoppers visited retailers and websites over the long weekend, spending an estimated total of $52.4 billion. And some 28.7 million people didn't wait to digest those turkey drumsticks, kicking things off on Thursday — about 30 percent more people than last year.
Also gaining momentum this year: the American Express Small Business Saturday campaign, encouraging consumers to take a break from big-box doorbusters and spend with their favorite local independents. To sweeten the deal, American Express offers its cardholders a $25 credit for spending $25 or more at qualifying retailers on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The movement more than doubled its "likes" on Facebook year-to-year to 2.7 million and even got a bit of a boost from an unexpected source. Occupy Wall Street protestors called for a chain-store boycott in favor of supporting smaller shops.
Anecdotally, more people I know outside of the industry were aware of Small Business Saturday and planning to participate. It's so smart to build a national "brand" around the concept of shopping small businesses, and stores stand to benefit whether they are formally affiliated with the official American Express version or not. It reminds everyone how enjoyable the experience can be to shop small, and that money spent doing so more directly impacts their local economy.
It's also an excellent excuse to take advantage of media coverage. So many local broadcast and print outlets do stories now on area retailers and what they are doing for Small Business Saturday. A little outreach could go a long way to ensure that you get your unfair share of that $52.4 billion.