Small Business Saturday Wooden blocks on a desk

How to Prepare For Small Business Saturday—In a Pandemic

6 min read • Nov 25, 2020 • Joe Kukura
2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of the shopping holiday Small Business Saturday, a response to the Black Friday sales generally dominated by big-box national retail chains. The informal holiday is Saturday, Nov. 28, this year—its traditional Saturday-after-Thanksgiving date. The day creates a special middle point between the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping surges that favor the Walmarts and Amazons of the retail landscape.

Every customer in America has local small businesses they adore and come back to again and again. Small Business Saturday reminds customers of these businesses that could use a boost amidst the coronavirus recession, shops that sorely need a surge in holiday sales. 

Yes, the business environment seems awfully depressing right now. But Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010 to help small businesses rebound from a similar long-ago recession that eventually went away. That’s a helpful reminder for 2020 that the US economy always bounces back.

Small Business Saturday is a formidable retail phenomenon that has created an estimated $120 billion in consumer spending over its 10 years. This unofficial 1-day holiday can help you determine a blueprint for a successful holiday shopping season.  

Free Small Business Saturday Marketing Materials

American Express still offers free Small Business Saturday marketing materials that any small business can use. These flyers and graphics have American Express branding and logos on them, but they’re polished and professional advertisements. You can even customize your business name onto some of these graphics.

If your small business accepts American Express cards, you get additional Small Business Saturday benefits. This includes a listing on the lucrative American Express “Shop Small” Map that drives so much Small Business Saturday shopping.

How Holiday Shopping Will be Different in 2020 

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday may technically kick off your holiday shopping season, but it’s already underway for some buyers. That’s just one finding in consulting firm McKinsey’s 2020 Holiday season shopping behaviors in the pandemic, which analyzed thousands of shoppers in the US, UK, China, and Europe.

You may have noticed that more buyers are shopping online and doing their holiday shopping earlier. The data absolutely verifies this. McKinsey found that 37% say they will shop more online this year, and 33% will do their holiday shopping earlier. That’s a significant swing of 1/3 or more for both categories, so keep that change in mind when game-planning your business’ holiday season. 

Identify Your Big Shopping Days

Small Business Saturday is generally not one of the biggest shopping days of the year, according to McKinsey’s data. But their data assesses the whole world, whereas Small Business Saturday is primarily an American thing. McKinsey identifies the biggest individual holiday season shopping days. Here’s where those dates fall this year and what percentage of buyers say they plan to shop on those days:

  1. Black Friday, Nov. 27 (56%)
  2. Cyber Monday, Nov. 30 (39%)
  3. Pre-Christmas sales, Dec. 18-25 (38%)
  4. Cyber Week, Nov. 27-Dec. 3 (26%)
  5. Super Saturday, Dec. 19 (24%)
  6. Cyber Week II, Dec. 26-31 (20%)

Bolster Your Online Store and Social Media

You’ll notice the word “cyber” appears several times on the above list. That means you’ll want to have an online store in place and also consider how to boost sales in your online store, plus explore tactics to sell more products on your website.

McKinsey also found that 31% of buyers say that social media posts give them gift ideas. So try to maximize your social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp. Pay attention to your analytics, and handle negative feedback with grace to maintain a positive social media presence.

And don’t be afraid to emphasize to your loyal or repeat customers to Like your posts or leave you a review. Customers are influenced by online reviews and Likes, and of course, the bots and algorithms will promote you more when you have them.

Physical Safety Measures at Your Business

Some businesses may not be able to do much—or any—of their sales online. If you’re running a physical storefront, it’s crucial to consider that we’re experiencing another raging COVID-19 surge in which you’ll have to keep your employees and customers safe.

You’ve seen everything from PPE to plexiglass barriers at businesses maintaining a sanitary space. There are a number of strategies to keep your business safe during COVID-19. And it’s worth reading the whole 35-page Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Preparing

Workplaces for COVID-19 guidelines to ensure you’re operating your business ethically during a historically deadly period.

Your customers will shop at Amazon and Walmart, but most buyers also have local businesses they love and will always support. Small Business Saturday reminds customers of that. It may not be the busiest day of your business’s holiday season, but Small Business Saturday will set the tone for the busiest days of your holiday season.


Joe Kukura

Joe Kukura is a San Francisco freelance writer whose work also appears in SF Weekly and SFist. He’s written financial advice for NerdWallet, tech industry analysis for the Daily Dot, sports content for NBC Bay Area, and good, old-fashioned clickbait for Thrillist.