Think Small

Businesses offer tips to prepare for the other Thanksgiving shopping holiday, Small Business Saturday.


Written by Samuel Speciale

Let the horde have Black Friday. Saturday still belongs to the little guy. Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday encourages people to support small, local businesses after splurging on discounted electronics from department stores the previous day. After receiving seldom-seen bipartisan support out of Washington, including a stamp of approval from President Barack Obama, Small Business Saturday became even more popular in 2012, attracting more than 70 million shoppers.

Last year, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent locally on Small Business Saturday, according to national surveys. “A small business can get nationwide attention, advertising, and public relations support,” says Nicole Reyhle, a spokeswoman for Small Business Saturday. “It really kicks off the holiday shopping season.”

If your business wants to get in on the Small Business Saturday action, we’ve collected some tips from West Virginia small businesses to get you started.

Promote the event through social media, email and word-of-mouth.

Every 140-character tweet or picture posted to Facebook is an advertisement. That’s why Sam Lowe, owner of Sullivan’s Records in Charleston, doesn’t spend money for traditional advertising—he finds it easier to communicate with customers directly.

Lowe does offer a cautionary tip to small businesses that use Facebook to promote an event, however. “You have to pay now for anyone to see your post.” Posts on business pages only reach a small fraction of followers—Facebook now requires businesses to pay to boost their posts’ reach. “Otherwise no one will see it,” Lowe says. For more information on using social media to promote your business, check out page 73 in this issue.

Embrace your store’s uniqueness.

Big boxes are uniformly designed to herd customers through a maze of aisles in order to maximize profits. Dan Carlisle, manager of Taylor Books, says it is important for small businesses to capitalize on their unique characters. With a wide selection of new and used books as well as a café and lounge, Taylor Books offers a relaxing atmosphere that welcomes customers. “It’s all about having that atmosphere,” Carlisle said.

Evaluate staffing needs leading up to the big day.

As the holiday shopping season begins, some stores need additional staffing to accommodate the increase in sales. The same is doubly true for shopping holidays like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

“Normally, we wouldn’t need extra staff, but it’s become such a big shopping weekend, we’ll probably have to call more workers in,” says Susie Agee, general manager of Glenn’s Sporting Goods in Huntington. When bringing in temporary workers, Agee says it’s important to thoroughly brief temporary workers. Let them know what they need to do and what they should expect. And be sure your temps know all about special deals so they can pass that information to customers.

Register with American Express for Small Business Saturday.

Traci Higginbotham, co-owner of Art Emporium in Charleston, said signing up with the credit card company automatically enters one’s store into its online database of participating stores. The website, shopsmall.com, is a hub of information for customers, with each participating store listed and searchable by name or category. “It’s like free advertising,” she says.

Registering carries other perks, too. Businesses can get resources like tote bags, stickers and custom advertisements, says Small Business Saturday spokeswoman Reyhle. The website also has a list of event ideas that can be used to spark interest in the event. “Some stores have done scavenger hunts,” she says. “There are a lot of ways you can rally the community together.”

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