Small Business Saturday in 2020 Shifts Gears and Prepares for Virtual, Outdoor Events

Retailers who are still hoping to make lemonade out of a year packed with revenue-busting lemons are looking forward to the annual Small Business Saturday — set for Saturday, Nov. 28 this year — event, putting together special virtual and carry-out activities, promoting digital gifting options and looking for additional ways to encourage shoppers to look to e-commerce rather than brick-and-mortar visits.

Because 2020 has been such an uncomfortable and challenging year, retailers approaching the holidays and beyond “have to be willing to completely flip their business on its head,” said small-business expert Athan Slotkin.

“Ecommerce and digital markets were skills every business owner needed to understand. … COVID was the catalyst that pushed it even further and faster,” said Slotkin, a business-plan strategist and founder of The Shadow CEO, a small-business consulting firm.

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Slotkin points to recent report by Allocadia that found nearly half or 44% of shoppers plan to buy online during the holiday shopping season compared to 33% in 2019. Large companies like Amazon, Walmart and Target have launched their Black Friday and related holiday-shopping campaigns, showcasing a plethora of online deals to snag shoppers.

Slotkin said that small businesses must think big and take this COVID moment of confusion and turn it into clarity.

“Don’t get stuck in history. Everybody’s in the same position now. Everyone has to scramble and learn,” Slotkin said. “Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but with that comes great opportunity as well. … There’s nothing better than a large shock to the system (because) we’re all starting from zero.”

Event planning
According to American Express, which helped to create Small Business Saturday, an estimated 110 million people participated in Small Business Saturday last year, and sales hit a record high with an estimated $19.6 billion in reported spending.

Initially founded in 2010 by American Express in response to the Great Recession, Small Business Saturday has evolved into a year-round global Shop Small campaign to support small merchants, and earlier this year, American Express helped jumpstart spending at small businesses by committing more than $200 million through the company’s largest ever global Shop Small campaign.

“Small Business Saturday is an important part of our global Shop Small campaign, and small businesses need our support more than ever as they continue to navigate the effects of COVID-19,” Elizabeth Rutledge, Chief Marketing Officer of American Express, said in a statement.

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“We know 88% of U.S. consumers feel a personal commitment to support small businesses in the wake of the pandemic,” Rutledge said. “Whether online, curbside or safely in store, we’re reminding consumers that they can help make an impact by shopping small and sharing their favorite small businesses on social media all holiday season long.”

Metro Detroit
Slotkin, who has traveled extensively through Metro Detroit, said this region is particularly well suited for a COVID recovery – Detroit has been through a bankruptcy, the automotive companies have all had to recover from a variety of financial disasters and the state economy has had to work hard over the decades to expand into new territories. That’s all provided a huge education on how to get over tough times and do it well, Slotkin said.

Locally, many small businesses that have strong reputations for knowing how to market and pivot well are going after Small Business Saturday with new campaigns and strategies. For example, retail expert Rachel Lutz of Detroit’s Peacock Room, Frida and Yama has been doing Facebook Live events to promote her products and helping others do the same. She will have a variety of events at her stores for Small Business Saturday as well.

Also in Detroit, retailer City Bird is putting together themed boxes for several occasions, including boxes for moms, dads, sports lovers, a “parade in a box” with all the things you need to watch the parade from home (hot cocoa, slippers, etc). They also have greeting cards new in stock, Covid-themed and otherwise. Andy and Emily Linn, the siblings who own the store, have switched from entirely brick-and-mortar to small, intimate appointments or online orders.

Detroit Experience Factory is doing a virtual tour of Detroit’s small businesses to get people interested in shopping small. Signing up for its online event will provide shoppers with a local tour guide, who will highlight Detroit’s neighborhood shopping districts and the stories behind the shops anchored in them.

Around Metro Detroit, shopping districts in downtowns and neighborhoods also are putting together Small Business Saturday events. In Lathrup Village, shoppers can participate in a Winter Market. This event allows people to “treat themselves” or shop for unique, handmade holiday gifts. The outdoor event requires all shoppers must be wearing masks and practice social distancing. To make it more fun, dozens of Lathrup Village businesses will also be participating in Lathrup Business Bingo, where shoppers can visit downtown businesses to win prizes.

In Plymouth, the local Arts and Recreation organization is asking shoppers to “ditch the mall and shop small” during the Holiday Artisan Market, a seasonal celebration of local culture, food, fashion and art. Families can visit PARC’s resident artists in the Art Wing, then experience more art, food, and music from local makers in PARC’s Theater. The Holiday Market features community favorites such as Acorn Glassworks, Gooseneck Coffee Co., Bon Bon Bon Chocolate Treats, Central Clay Studio, Janisse Larsson Art, and more.