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Shop Local celebrates its tenth year

American Express created Small Business Saturday ten years ago, in the middle of the recession, to encourage people to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and to generate a community initiative to support local businesses, especially during the start of the holiday shopping season. Now this program is in its tenth year and is still going strong.

Communities throughout the country will participate in the Shop Local movement on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2020. Independent retail owners have an opportunity to create good-will in towns as well as increase foot traffic and revenue.

American Express provides businesses with marketing ideas and plans to help with a successful Shop Local campaign. Retailers, if you have not yet participated in this event, it is never too late. Here are some marketing techniques American Express outlines on its website and are great initial steps toward creating a successful day. Remember next year to plan early and collaborate with other merchants within the community to create an annual event local residents will return to time and again.

Success comes from the businesses and interest the participants share. Many merchant groups coordinate successful Shop Local events. Some ideas that have been generated and utilized in the country are ones that could be implemented in any town, whether there is a Main Street environment, or multiple small stores throughout the town.

Take action ...

Offer a welcome station

Greet shoppers as they join in on the fun shopping experience. Some communities have presented a station with information in a location suitable to many of the stores participating. Communities have had success with greeting stations by offering entertainment and treats, of course. Other towns across America have utilized a tourist center, if it is small and centralized. For businesses on Main Street, another idea is to request use of a vacant commercial space to use for the day as the welcome station, or have two stations, one at each end of Main Street. Remember, greet customers with a warm welcome, smile and a hello.

Create a Shop Small Passport 

According to American Express, this is a program that began in Detroit and has been successful. Business owners join in as do the shoppers. American Express noted this passport is “part scavenger hunt, part souvenir.” Each time a shopper makes a purchase at a participating store, a stamp is placed in the passport and when the consumer goes to another retailer that day, a reward is received. Some rewards could include a special discount, or a coupon for a free treat — food or beverage — from another retailer, or a free item from the store.

Provide gift wrapping services

Place stocking stuffers and holiday cards near checkout for easy, spontaneous purchases, and/or offer give-aways to bolster your email lists.

Say thank you …

A simple, courteous and respectful response is to thank all shoppers who enter the store, regardless if they make a purchase or not. Good will, excellent customer service and friendliness make a positive, lasting impression.

Then, after the event, be sure to send out a big thank you via emails to your business list, social media and a note on the homepage of your website — where it is easily found and seen. 

Track results ...

Take pictures and share the excitement through social media and on your website. When posting to social media, businesses should use one of these hashtags: #ShopLocal, #SmallBizSat, or #AmexSBSChampion.

Tracking is also measured in sales, so be sure to tally the revenue of the day and ensure the impact is helpful. Use that information to then determine how you can create an even more positive experience next season to help the bottom line. Find out what your customers liked and didn’t like and make changes to improve for the next event.

Preparation is key … 

After Shop Local is over, celebrate the day’s success, but also think about next year. Make a list of items that worked, while it is fresh in the mind, and include a list of items that didn’t work. Knowledge is key, so make a note about suggestions that staff and shoppers may have provided during the day. All of these notations will help owners and managers plan for an even better event next year. Also, consider meeting with other merchants in the town to collaborate. Brainstorming with other business leaders is a great way to pull resources to create a positive outcome.

Remember to brand the event, create a festive atmosphere, and offer food and entertainment — even invite special guests, such as local government leaders, a local author or other notable community member that will draw interest. Most importantly, remember to share success either through short social media posts or blogs to discuss the fun and meaning behind Shop Local Saturday.

For more information, visit www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/.

Originally posted Monday, Nov. 25, 2019

Tags: retail, specialty retail