Everyone knows that supporting local businesses means more money goes straight into the local economy. But did you realise that using smaller enterprises in the immediate area could make your neighbourhood a more friendly and happy place to live, too?
So suggest the organisers of Small Business Saturday, an event taking place this weekend to promote the efforts of existing local firms, as well as to inspire the creation of new small enterprises. High streets will be a hive of activity on December 6, as business owners show off their wares, put on special events to attract and entertain customers, and keep their doors open for longer to make the most of the added pre-Christmas interest. There are about a quarter of a million small shops in the UK, according to the Local Data Company, and they’re expected to do more than £500 million of extra business on Saturday. And social media will be buzzing with promotions from participating firms, many of them using the #SmallBizSatUK hashtag to show followers they’re part of the action.
The success of Small Business Saturday
The first event of this kind happened in the UK last December, as we highlighted at the time. This followed the example of the US where Small Business Saturday has been held to great fanfare – and economic success – for the last five years. And 2013’s launch in Britain was a great triumph, raising awareness of the hard work done by smaller, neighbourhood firms, and bringing in hordes of punters to local high streets.
- Almost half of all UK consumers were aware of Small Business Saturday last year, and many of those who shopped locally that day spent at least 50 per cent more than usual.
- Nearly £470 million was taken by local, small enterprises on that one December day.
- Four out of ten local authorities got in on the action, and supported the campaign to promote SMEs in their area.
Local shoppers are happier citizens
The push for local firms both in the US and the UK was originally the brainchild of American Express, and it has conducted research into how people and communities are affected when locals use small retailers and service providers close to home. Areas where there’s a higher concentration of smaller, independent shops tend to demonstrate a greater level of social interaction between shoppers, the study found, with passers-by being twice more likely to greet each other than people in streets where larger retail brands dominate. Another interesting finding was that residents near clusters of small, independently-run firms are 16 per cent more positive in their attitude than those close to a more generic shopping environment.
Saturday could be your chance to maximise this good feeling by offering shoppers free samples of your products or services, running a competition with a star prize for the lucky winner, or rewarding regulars who support your firm the rest of the year. Social media is a great tool to drum up interest in what you’re doing on the day, but it’s wise to get your tweets, posts, and photos lined up ahead of time. If the weekend proves as busy as you hope, then there will be little time for playing around on social media, so schedule messages in advance. Twitter offers some great tips on how to plan ahead for comprehensive coverage even when you’re run off your feet.
Restaurants and pubs are high street heroes, too
So, small firms aren’t just keeping high streets busy, alive, and replete with useful shops and services, they’re also improving their community’s sense of well-being. No wonder they’re being labelled ‘high street heroes’. Pop art legend Sir Peter Blake has even been enlisted to create a collage of more than 60 of Britain’s heroic small shopkeepers in a poster that is reminiscent of his famous cover for the Beatles’ album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
And it’s not just retailers who are taking advantage of the promotional push. Restaurants, cafes, and pubs also have the chance to show off their local, independent credentials, luring in the greater volumes of passing trade that will be in evidence in shopping areas this Saturday. If you run a hospitality business in a retail area, advertise any Small Business Saturday-related offers in your premises days in advance, as well as on boards outside. And, again, organise social media feeds now to pull in extra custom on the day itself.
Smaller firms in a David and Goliath battle
While many customers are keen to support their local firms, businesses of this type do need all the help they can get. Sales grew for six out of ten smaller shops in the UK in the third quarter of this year, according to the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), but many still struggle. There are areas where smaller shops appear to thrive – Barnes in south west London, Glastonbury in Somerset, and Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire all have high concentrations of independents, BIRA says, though Salford in Manchester, Yate in south Gloucestershire, and Bracknell Berkshire are all examples of towns with very low levels of stand-alone, small retailers. The original Small Business Saturday in the US was developed as an antidote to big name sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday that tend to favour larger retailers, as we discussed recently.
So, shining this spotlight on local businesses provides a much-needed boost to small firms’ coffers. Amex estimates that persuading shoppers to part with their money in the nearby area produces a number of side benefits:
- About £537 million worth of free services are produced for local communities when people shop within their community.
- Almost two-thirds of every pound spent in independent companies in an area goes immediately into the local economy, therefore directly benefitting those that live in the vicinity.
How to get involved
So, if you have yet to get organised for Small Business Saturday, you’ve still got time to take part. There are several steps you can take now to be ready in time for the weekend’s activities:
- Download a digital starter pack here, or subscribe via the Small Business Saturday website to receive information, posters, and leaflets through the post on how to make the most of the day.
- Embed a Small Business Saturday Prezi on your website by going to the event’s online home.
- Collaborate with neighbouring business owners to make as big an impact in the community as possible. This could be a joint effort to hold a street fair, Christmas market, or children’s activities to draw in the crowds.
- Talk to your local authority, business organisations, the local MP, and regional press to see if they have any plans to support and promote the occasion. Any coverage for the event is more free publicity for your business.
Whatever you do, use this rare opportunity to shout about your business’s distinct personality, how you’re different from the big brands, and the part you play in your local community all year round. Your independence is one of your strongest assets, so make sure people know about it. And enjoy a great fun – and lucrative – Small Business Saturday!