How To Use AMEX Small Business Saturday To Grow Holiday Retail Sales

October 18, 2017

independent retailers looking bigger with marketing

Looking for a strong way to promote your business and how to attract customers? Are you an AMEX cardmember looking for what’s different this year? Read on...

Now in it’s fifth year, American Express’ Small Business Saturday has become a marketing powerhouse for retailers and restaurants of all sizes.

Held two days after Thanksgiving, November 25, 2017, Small Business Saturday is one of the most trafficked shopping weekends of the year.

In 2014, customers spent an estimated 14.3 billion at small independent businesses on that day. #Shopsmall, its hashtag, was the highest trending topic across social media that day.

And yet, I continue to discover many indie retailers who do absolutely nothing to connect to Small Business Saturday.

It’s like going out on Halloween to trick or treat in your neighborhood and finding most of the front porch lights turned off.


For those independent retailers either proudly not participating, or oblivious to what it is, this is how you can use the event to attract and drive more customers to your store.

And if you’re already sold on the shopping day, read on for some kick-ass ideas.

When did Small Business Saturday start and what is it?

American Express started small Business Saturday as a marketing program back in 2010.

What does it cost?

It costs you zip. Nada. Zero cash.

How does it work for small businesses?

You can order Shop Small Merchandise, download social and digital materials to drive awareness, and even get a free Event Guide to make the most of your efforts. Go here and get your marketing materials. Note, you do not have to be currently accepting the American Express Card to get started. More on that in a bit.

How does it work for AMEX cardmembers?

If you are a cardmember, you can login to AMEX and discover your favorite small businesses based on your spending history.

What should retailers and restaurateurs do?

Bundle. It’s as easy to offer 20% off your entire store as it is to swipe your customer’s credit card. Resist the urge. Shoppers will be out spending their money, and you want to attract those who are looking for something other than just a cheap price. There’s always someone cheaper, whether online or down the street. Instead, what could you bundle with a purchase? Even if it is a gift card to your business, it is a much better promotion than a generous discount because it gets customers back into your store to spend it.

Give back. Find a local charity. Collect donations. Have your Main Street fund new uniforms for the high school choir; plant a park, trim the trees – you name it.  Customers feel good when they see businesses looking making their local world a better place.  

Band together. Hold a meeting with your other local businesses to create a fun plan. Here are three kick-ass ideas from last year. You can download how to do a scavenger hunt based on the successful promotion Belair-Edison neighborhoods did in Maryland last year. You can find the details of how to do a selfie event that lets people show their support with more than just a purchase as the Douglas Main Street Merchant Association did in Georgia. You can create a Small Business Passport like they did in Detroit or discover how Orleans, MA hosted a kick-off breakfast. Details are all here.

Get their names. Use this opportunity to get those who visit you to join your Facebook page. Have them take a snap in your store and post it with your hashtag and #shopsmall. Have them signup for your newsletter on a dedicated iPad by the register. Getting their names and follows is critical as you need to stay in contact with these shoppers long after the Thanksgiving leftovers have all been eaten.

What are the naysayers saying at this point?

Oh, I don’t take American Express, their discount rate is so high...

I don’t want a separate statement for my merchant services…

When I tell them we don’t take AMEX, all of my customers can give me another credit card…

Take a look at this infographic of comparing AMEX to other credit cards when it comes to restaurant customers.

american express cardmember spending patterns

American Express cardmembers are much more likely to spend more and visit more...I’d say that would be a great demographic to court... not avoid, wouldn’t you?

And if you want to learn about their one stop solution, OptBlue, check it out here.

Shop Local

Let’s be very clear… while I’m all for supporting local businesses...

Shop Local has to be more than a sign you put on your Facebook post, a placard taped to your front door, or a poster by your POS counter that tries to guilt customers into avoiding the big boxes.

I get it... educating shoppers to Shop Local will show your customers how their money stays in the community, supports local charities, and gives kids jobs.

It is designed to make customers feel guilty if they buy anywhere else.

But is that alone enough to make it work?


Look at your own credit card statement. How many times did you shop Amazon? Best Buy? Wal-Mart? Lowe’s?

Exactly. We all make choices all the time for where to share our money.

So as my final point to you about Small Business Saturday, you need to have your best game on each and every time any shopper enters your brick and mortar store or sits down at your restaurant.

Lose your cynicism. Don’t bemoan the weather, the foot traffic, or the economy.

Create and share positive energy.

Train your employees how to sell your merchandise, not just clerk it. (My online retail sales training courses are a good way. Click the button at the bottom of this post to learn more.)

Decorate your store with lights and displays that enchant, and you’ll see your customers respond by opening their hearts to you … and their wallets.

See also, Avoid These 4 Small Business Saturday Shop Small Mistakes

In Sum

It’s the season of joy, and it kicks off for many shoppers with this important day. Use this event to appear bigger, attract more customers and deliver an exceptional customer service experience for everyone who gives you a chance at their business.

Don’t Scrooge it up!

how to sell retail

Disclaimer: I have received no money to write this post or promote this. As a retail expert, I’m dedicated to retailers attracting more customers and doing more to create an exceptional experience for them. If you have questions about the program contact AMEX.

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