If you’re looking to take advantage of discounts and promotions around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you may want to consider shopping on Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday created to inspire consumers to shop locally at mom and pop stores.
Invented by American Express 10 years ago, Small Business Saturday is a shopping holiday that’s been embraced by small businesses across the country. In fact, in 2011, the Senate, recognizing the importance of small businesses to the economy, unanimously passed a resolution of support for Small Business Saturday. The hope was to encourage holiday spending and spur job growth.
Small Business Saturday falls on the day after Black Friday, when retailers tend to pull out all the stops and offer steep discounts to entice shoppers to stock up for the holidays. Small Business Saturday is basically the independent business version of what major brands do on Black Friday. It’s a day when deals are often found at small businesses to encourage consumers to step away from online shopping and support their neighborhoods and communities.
So, if you’re looking to secure the best deals on Small Business Saturday and contribute to your local economy, here are some ideas for getting the most out of shopping small at independent retailers in your neighborhood.
[See: 7 Habits You Can Learn From Highly Successful Savers.]
Look for Deals on Social Media
“Follow and stalk your favorite small businesses on social media,” says John Schultz, co-owner of Batter & Crumbs, a vegan bakery and café in Philadelphia.
“Social media is the best way for a small business to connect with customers, and you never know what kind of deal or discount code you might find in a Facebook post or Instagram story,” he says.
If you don’t have favorite local stores in mind, you might want to search online for local influencers, says Erica Mazzucato, a product marketing manager at Corra, a New York City-headquartered global digital agency creating e-commerce solutions for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. Influencers on social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, steer consumers toward local shops to forge relationships and boost and build their brands.
“Small businesses are relying more and more on local influencers to connect with shoppers in their area,” Mazzucato says. “Following them on Instagram will allow you to keep yourself up to date on the shopping initiatives that are happening in your community. Don’t forget to check their Instagram stories before Small Business Saturday, as they often promote giveaways and offer coupons with their personalized promo codes.”
[See: How to Give Back Without Breaking Your Budget.]
Seek Out Prize-Winning Opportunities
If you want to get the most out of Small Business Saturday, you may want to get into the spirit of the day and actually do more than rush through the stores. Participate in some of the Small Business Saturday events that you’ll find at some of the small businesses. For instance, Schultz says that on Small Business Saturday Batter & Crumbs plans to have a selfie contest “where we ask customers to check in on social media and take a selfie of themselves at the cafe. The top three selfies will win $25 gift cards.”
Check out your local chamber of commerce site for sponsored contest events where there will be a drawing for gift cards at local businesses. At First Community Bank in Bluefield, West Virginia, for example, there’s an essay contest for its residents, where locals can describe what they love about Bluefield in 100 words or less; the winner will win free Chick-Fil-A for a year.
Set Reasonable Expectations
While there will be many discounts at local shops on Small Business Saturday, as well as raffles for small prizes and Santa Claus meet-and-greets at some stores, you shouldn’t expect to find expensive products and services slashed to next to nothing.
“People tend to shop small to get a unique one-of-a-kind item that cannot be found elsewhere. Small business owners cannot afford to give huge deals,” says Marianne Rustad, a small business owner in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
Rustad owns Conjured, a soap boutique. For Small Business Saturday, local customers visiting Conjured will get 10% off, she says. Margins are also tighter for Rustad because 20% of her sales for bath salts are donated to a nearby animal sanctuary. She also makes a dog soap and 20% goes to a local animal shelter.
Ask Around for Local Recommendations
“Customers learn from other customers. Ask friends and family where they like to go and the things they do. Sampling and experimentation are the best ways to learn about your community,” says Kristen Alfonsi, the co-owner of One Lake Brewing, a brewpub in Oak Park, Illinois.
For her part, Alfonsi says that on Small Business Saturday, with the purchase of a $50 gift card, One Lake Brewing will be giving out a free crowler (a 32-ounce can) of one of the brewpub’s house beers.
And if you don’t know which small businesses to patronize, you can check out the Small Business Saturday section on the American Express website. On the website, you can type in your ZIP code for a map of numerous small businesses in your area that accept American Express.
[See: 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2019.]
Stick to a Budget
Just like shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you’ll want to have an idea of what you’re going to spend and try to adhere to it before browsing local stores in your neighborhood. If something isn’t on sale, and you’re worried about making too many impulse purchases, you can always take a photo of the item, think about whether you really want to buy it, and if so, come back another time. That’s a big part of why Small Business Saturday started, anyway — to encourage shoppers to make connections with the small businesses in their community and hopefully return time and time again.
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5 Tips to Prepare for Small Business Saturday originally appeared on usnews.com