Small Business Saturday in Alexandria (courtesy photo)

The ninth annual Small Business Saturday, held on Nov. 24, 2018, kicked off the holiday shopping season for consumers and small, independently owned businesses with record levels of reported spending. Total reported spending among U.S. consumers who said they shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on the day reached a record high of an estimated $17.8 billion, according to data released today from the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express (NYSE:AXP) and the National Federation of Independent Business. Based on this annual survey over the years, Small Business Saturday spending has now reached a reported estimate of $103 billion since the day began in 20101.

Communities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico – including Alexandria, Virginia – celebrated this Small Business Saturday with special events and activities. From lighting up the Empire State Building blue in New York to crafting a life-sized Shop Small® gingerbread shop in San Diego, to block parties featuring local jazz and salsa bands in San Juan, businesses and neighborhoods showed what makes their communities unique and vibrant. See more about Small Business Saturday in Alexandria. An estimated 104 million U.S. consumers reported shopping or dining at local independently owned businesses on Small Business Saturday, according to the same survey. 

“Millions of shoppers came together to show their support for small, independently owned businesses this Small Business Saturday,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, Chief Marketing Officer at American Express. “The Shop Small movement has become a national celebration – people all around the country are turning out to back the small businesses that make our neighborhoods and communities thrive.”

The survey also found that an estimated seven in ten (70%) American adults are aware of Small Business Saturday. Among consumers who said they shopped small on the day, 42% reported shopping with family and friends at independently owned businesses, and 83% reported encouraging others to also shop or dine small. Shoppers also turned out for online small businesses – among consumers who said they participated on the day, 41% reported that they shopped small online on November 24.

Small Business Owners Depend on the Holiday Shopping Season

In a separate, new survey of small business owners with storefronts, American Express and the NFIB explored the importance of the holiday shopping season. Small business owners expect an average of 29% of their total annual sales to take place during the holiday shopping season, and 59% said Small Business Saturday contributes significantly to their holiday sales each year, according to the 2018 Small Business Owner Insights Survey from American Express and the NFIB.

The survey took place November 5-12, in advance of Small Business Saturday, and two-thirds of small business owners surveyed (66%) said they were planning promotions, sales or activities during the shopping days following Thanksgiving (i.e., Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) to take advantage of the holiday shopping season. Among companies that were planning promotions on Small Business Saturday, 92% said the day helps their business stand out during the busy holiday shopping season and that the benefits of participating include bringing in more and new customers (74%), improved sales (70%), raised awareness of small businesses in their community (69%) and the day helps their local neighborhood and community prosper (66%).

Looking at the full shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, small business owners are optimistic about the holiday shopping season. More than eight-in-ten (83%) said they have a positive outlook on their business’s holiday sales this year, and more than two-thirds (69%) of those surveyed expect their holiday sales to be stronger than in 2017. To meet the holiday demand, half (51%) of surveyed business owners reported they will extend their store hours beyond the normal business hours and more than one third (36%) of respondents plan to hire more staff for the holiday season.

“Small and independent businesses depend on holiday sales and the shoppers that Small Business Saturday brings into their stores and online shops,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan. “Small businesses contribute so much to the economy and unique character of our communities, and we’re proud to join American Express to support them on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”

A Nationwide Movement Driven by Local Communities

Small Business Saturday is fueled each year at the local level by Neighborhood Champions, the small businesses, business associations, local Chambers of Commerce, and other community organizers who rally their communities to celebrate Small Business Saturday. This year, more than 7,500 Neighborhood Champions (a 4% increase from 2017) in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories celebrated Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24. In total they engaged an estimated 2.2 million small businesses to get shoppers out into their communities to Shop Small with events and activities like holiday pop-up markets, shopping passport programs, sleigh rides through town and more.

Through the Small Business Saturday Coalition, comprised of national, state and local associations that help coordinate activities for Small Business Saturday with small business owners and consumers, more than 615 organizations helped spread the Shop Small message this year. The Coalition was created in 2011 with the goal of helping amplify Small Business Saturday and is led by Women Impacting Public Policy.

In addition to the Neighborhood Champion Program and the Small Business Saturday Coalition, corporations, consumers and businesses across the country brought their communities together for Small Business Saturday.

  • American Express enlisted the support of nearly 100 large companies, known as Corporate Supporters, to help drive excitement for and promote Small Business Saturday.
  • Small business owners successfully used the Shop Small Studio nearly 120,000 times for customizable and ready-to-use marketing materials and/or merchandise to help promote their businesses on Small Business Saturday. Downloadable marketing materials were also offered in Spanish, and 13% of Studio visitors requested assets in Spanish.
  • From November 1 through November 24, there were more than 715,000 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #ShopSmall and/or #SmallBizSat, an increase of 18% over 2017. Posts included consumers showing off their favorite small businesses, business owners hosting events with promotions and activities taking place on Small Business Saturday, as well as government officials and celebrities, including Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake, and Venus Williams, showing their support for the day and their favorite small businesses.

Community Officials at Every Level Supported the Movement

  • Elected officials in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories championed Small Business Saturday.
  • A total of 289 federal officials and agencies showed support for Small Business Saturday through posts on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution designating November 24, 2018, as Small Business Saturday.
  • 659 city proclamations in support of Small Business Saturday were issued by mayors and other elected officials covering all 50 states and Washington, DC.
  • 13 public service announcements encouraging the public to Shop Small were recorded by government officials across the nation.

Shop Small Throughout the Year

Small Business Saturday benefits communities beyond just one day. According to the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, 96% of consumers who reported shopping on Small Business Saturday said the day makes them want to Shop Small all year long, not just during the holiday season.

In addition to products and services, American Express offers resources for small businesses year-round through the American Express Small Business Resource Center, an online hub where American Express® Card-accepting merchants can learn about free marketing opportunities available including how to get recommended to Card Members and add or update their information on our Shop Small Map, signage, events, programs, and more.

Small business owners can continue to create customizable Shop Small marketing materials at ShopSmall.com year round.

Mark your calendar for the tenth annual Small Business Saturday next year, which will be celebrated on Nov. 30, 2019.

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This spend statistic is an aggregate of the average spend as reported by consumers in surveys commissioned by American Express reporting spend habits on Small Business Saturday of consumers who were aware of the day. It does not reflect actual receipts or sales. Each such survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The surveys had an overall margin of error of between +/- 2.0% and +/- 5.47%, at the 95% level of confidence. The data was projected from the samples based on then-current U.S. Census estimates of the U.S. adult population (18+).