Small businesses along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona will be participating in this year’s Small Business Saturday event, on Nov. 30. Photo by Ira Cohen
BY JOE MARVILLI
Besides Thanksgiving, Black Friday is the most widely-recognized day at the end of November. However, a new shopping day has popped up in recent years, one that fits in line with the nature of Queens’ economy: Small Business Saturday.
Happening on Nov. 30, Small Business Saturday is a day where shoppers are encouraged to support their local mom-and-pop stores. Many small businesses offer sales or other special deals to increase the amount of customers they receive, hopefully creating some new and loyal patrons along the way.
Small Business Saturday was first observed on Nov. 27, 2010. The day was created and promoted by American Express as a way to support local, brick-and-mortar stores, making it an alternative to shopping at national chains on Black Friday and retail websites on Cyber Monday. Combined with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this shopping weekend after Thanksgiving represents the start of the holiday season.
According to American Express, the market share for small businesses has dropped from 57 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2009. As the credit card company has a long history of working with small businesses, the day was created to help them thrive, as they create jobs, help the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country.
This viewpoint is shared by the Queens Economic Development Corporation, who said that the money small businesses make is funneled back into the community.
“If you’re shopping at a local store, it goes right into the community. Those companies will sponsor Little League teams, donate stuff to events, etc. Locally owned businesses create more jobs with better wages and benefits in general,” Rob MacKay, director of public relations, said. “It’s often true that local shop owners, because they know their communities so well, they know what the tastes are. They know what sells at what juncture. If you don’t shop at your local stores, they will go away.”
In 2010, to kick start the holiday, American Express bought advertising inventory on Facebook and gave it to small merchant account holders. In 2011, the U.S. Senate officially recognized and designated Small Business Saturday in a show of support.
In three years, the campaign has paid off. According to a Redshift Research study and American Express, consumers who are aware of Small Business Saturday have spent an estimated $5.5 billion at local stores.
Across the nation, Small Business Saturday is promoted through social media, as many small businesses do not have the resources for large-scale advertising campaigns. On Twitter, the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday is often used to publicize deals or small businesses that are worth checking out.
In Queens, several economic organizations, such as the
Business Improvement Districts, are also preparing for the shopping holiday, to make sure their small businesses thrive on Saturday and throughout the holiday season.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce is working with American Express and five local business associations. The Bayside Business Association, the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, Sunnyside Shines, the 82nd Street Partnership and the Beach 116th Street Partnership in the Rockaways have each received 10 $25 American Express gift cards to be spent at small businesses.
“It’s the small mom and pops in the commercial corridors that create the most amount of jobs, that create the most amount of economic activities,” the Chamber’s executive director, Jack Friedman, said. “It’s incumbent upon us to help them with those marketing efforts. People get used to shopping locally and realize they have competitive prices that are going to help them all year long.”
The Bayside BID has also partnered with American Express for Small Business Saturday. The organization will provide free giveaways at the shops along the length of Bell Boulevard.
“The Small Business Saturday initiative shows off the small businesses. It kicks off the holiday season and sets that tone,” Lyle Sclair, the BID’s executive director, said.
To keep the momentum going after Small Business Saturday, the Bayside BID will hold a holiday light celebration on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. and will be holding St. Mary’s Kids Days from Dec. 2 to Dec. 8, to support the children’s hospital. These events will help drive people to Bell Boulevard and could lead to increased shopping in the area.
While the 82nd Street Partnership and Sunnyside Shines are partnered with the Chamber of Commerce, they each have their own plans for Small Business Saturday as well.
The 82nd Street Partnership will be working with Uber for transportation services. It will also have a Chiva bus, which the BID described as a Columbian Entertainment Bus, to bring people to different areas of the district, such as 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue. More than 100 different businesses are expected to offer specials, which the BID will promote through social media.
Sunnyside Shines is going to do something similar, as the BID has asked its businesses to let it know what their sales are so they can compile a list on its website and in its newsletter.
“I think it’s a great idea to put a national spotlight on shopping local. It really does help to generate a national buzz about the importance of spending your dollars in your own community,” Rachel Thieme, the BID’s executive director, said. “We hope people will take that message and apply it throughout the season, not just one day.”
The Jamaica BID will re-launch its Jamaica Center BID value card, which will offer discounts of 10 and 20 percent for retailers and food establishments on Jamaica Avenue. The BID will also promote local shopping through its Facebook page. About 40 businesses will be taking part in the day.
“Small Business Saturday is extremely important to the BID because many of our retailers are local and have been here many, many years,” executive director Felicia Tunnah said. “They’re a vibrant part of the economy for downtown Jamaica.”
On a national level, American Express has several companies listed as its Premier Partners of Small Business Saturday. These businesses are putting forward efforts to help small businesses promote themselves with minimal cost to them.
Twitter is giving away up to one million dollars in free advertising credits. Qualified business advertisers who register on Twitter will receive $100 in ad credits while supplies last.
Foursquare will promote Small Business Saturday through a custom button in its application that will recommend nearby mom-and-pops to users.
FedEx Office is giving businesses the chance to create and pick up two, high-quality 11”x17” posters at no charge.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.