Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saturday Nov. 30: Small Business Saturday

Over the past few years, American Express, in the past with the American Independent Business Alliance and other organizations, this year, the National Federation of Independent Business, has been working to position the first Saturday after Thanksgiving "Small Business Saturday" as a shop local event for post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping. 

The Friday after Thanksgiving is known as "Black Friday," for its orgiastic shopping excess in terms of the number of shoppers, special blowout pricing on various items, people lining up hours before the store opens to be able to get exclusive deals, occasional deaths from shopper stampedes, etc.

Small Business Saturday is designed as a complementary event, a recognition that you can't beat chain retailers at price promotions so it's ridiculous to try, and instead repositions small-independent retailers around their strengths--uniqueness and small and more intimate vs. selling the same stuff others are selling and big.

If you get Verizon FIOS, American Express has a special channel, 325, set up with videos and other promotional material on "Shopping Small."

Right: Black Friday line at a Target store.  Image from the Associated Press, 2007.

Last year, because of dismal sales numbers, many retailers opened their stores on Thanksgiving, as early as 8pm, whereas in previous years about the earliest opening was at midnight on Thursday.  See "The Changing Shades of Black Friday" from the Wall Street Journal.

This year that trend is even more pronounced, with stores opening even earlier and more companies participating.  See "More stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving from the Tulsa World, "Thanksgiving shopping a sacrilege for some," USA Today, and "Real reason stores are opening on Thanksgiving" from Market Watch.

From the Tulsa World story:
Up to 140 million people plan to shop sometime during the Thursday-to-Sunday weekend, down from 147 million who planned to do the same last year, according to a preliminary Thanksgiving weekend shopping survey released by the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday will still be the biggest day of the weekend with 69.1 percent planning to shop, or approximately 97 million shoppers.  For the first time for its survey, the National Retail Federation asked if people plan to shop on Thanksgiving, and some 33 million shoppers — 23.5 percent — said yes.
One of the main points of the USA Today story is that retailers are "nervous" because the holiday shopping season is one week shorter compared to last year and consumer spending is still quite stunted so they are trying to get in as much sales time as they can, given the constraints.

Image:  Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel / November 19, 2013.

There has been some press coverage of "Small Business Saturday," such as "Small-business Saturday shines at bookstores" from USA Today and "Local shops think big as they prep for Small Business Saturday" from the Orlando Sentinel.

According to the Sentinel article, this year there is a new element to the campaign, engaging local citizens as promoters and organizers to get people out shopping locally:
New for Small Business Saturday this year is the "Neighborhood Champion" program, made up of individuals across the country who have signed up to rally businesses in their communities to promote the day.
The Post Capital Business section did a story last week too, "On Main Street, high hopes for this year's Small Business Saturday."

I can think of many great commercial districts to shop in from Richmond (Carytown) to Philadelphia (Chestnut Hill, Media) and points in between including Downtown Frederick, Maryland, Alexandria, Virginia,Hampden in Baltimore, and groupings of shops here and there.

I'm surprised that more local business promotion efforts aren't centered around promoting local holiday shopping for this Saturday, leveraging the "Small Business Saturday" theme, especially given the "Neighborhood Champion" angle, which is a great way to engage people in local advocacy.

Similarly, community newspapers ought to be jumping on the bandwagon as well, since they are more have traditional commercial districts and independent retailers as advertisers.

Rather than try to market against the sales orgy on Friday, and lose, better to set a different day, which is what Small Business Saturday does.

And the real point is rather than follow the march of the same drummer, be sure to shop some at independent businesses this holiday season, even if you don't do so this coming Saturday, but sometime else during the run up to Christmas.

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