Last Saturday was “Small Business Saturday.” It’s a celebration of small business that was launched in 2010 by American Express and over the years it has caught on in neighborhoods and business districts around the country. This year the results were encouraging. News outlets reported that spending reached 16.3 billion which is a 14% increase from 2014. To read news about the day just follow this link.
Those of us who are big supporters of small business throughout the year are delighted to see the progress that has been made over the past six years. Support has come from elected officials, large corporate sponsors and consumers. But, small businesses must also do their part. It’s one thing to get people in the door. It is quite another to keep them coming back and build a relationship that translates to consistent business year after year. To do that small businesses need to build on their strengths.
There is a shop in my town that has this down. It is an amazing flower and gift store and is my “go to” place when I need to buy a gift. They have items that are much different than what you find in other gift stores. Because small business does not need huge quantities of items they are able to buy those very unique things and differentiate themselves. They can also take some risks because they won’t get stuck with hundreds of items that did not sell.
This is a major differentiator for small businesses. I will shop my local sports store for athletic shoes and apparel because of the service they provide. Yes, I could buy the shoes online but this store has experts who understand how to properly fit me. They will take the shoes back if I walk in them and find they are not as comfortable as I thought they would be. They actually have salespeople on the floor who answer questions and help you find items. You don’t need to search all over the store to find them. They find you.
One small family owned grocery store in my area would actually stock products that customers asked for as a service. It has since been purchased by a big chain and many of the local favorite items have been discontinued because they will only offer a certain number of SKUs of each product. Amazing service is something that every business, big or small should provide.
Many small businesses are family-owned. Others have long-time and trusted managers who have the authority to make decisions. When I shop small businesses, I like that I get to work with people who have a vested interest in the success of the organization. They are individuals who want to build relationships and they even know your name. They understand what you like and try to find ways to meet your needs. Many small businesses also have great relationships within their communities. They donate products and services because they want to be involved in the places where they live and work. Establishing great relationships is also critical when things go wrong, as they often do. If you have a good relationship you can repair a bad situation and move forward.
When commenting on Small Business Saturday, NFIB President and CEO Dan Danner said, “Americans are returning to Main Street for the things they need and ultimately that’s a very healthy economic trend.” I could not agree more and hope the trend continues far beyond this day of celebration and this holiday season. Shop small!