After slipping the previous two years, spending at independent shops and restaurants jumped 38% to an estimated $17.8 billion on Small Business Saturday, American Express Co. and the National Federation of Independent Business trade group reported Monday.
AmEx founded the Saturday-after-Thanksgiving promotion in 2010 to highlight locally owned businesses in the United States and Puerto Rico—and boost spending on its cards. In addition to its marketing support from AmEx, the event has now been recognized by politicians nationwide, some of whom encourage consumers to “Shop Small” in public-service promotions.
The record 2018 spending estimate represents a turnaround from declines in 2017 and 2016, according to AmEx-supplied data. Last year’s estimated total for the day fell to $12.9 billion from $15.4 billion in 2016, a year in which the total slipped from $16.2 billion in 2015. Estimated spending for 2014 was $14.3 billion. AmEx declined to say how much billed business the event generated on its cards for each year, but says it’s generated more than $100 billion in spending since its founding.
An AmEx spokesperson tells Digital Transactions News by email that Small Business Saturday “has become cemented as a holiday shopping tradition,” adding that it’s now boosting spending on small businesses’ e-commerce sites, not just at physical locations.
“As consumer shopping trends shift, we’re encouraged to see consumers are seeking out small businesses both in-person and online,” the spokesperson says. “Our survey found that 41% reporting that they shopped small online on Small Business Saturday this year, an increase from 35% in 2017.”
In addition to promotions such as Small Business Saturday, AmEx is making a concerted effort to expand its small-business merchant base through such programs as OptBlue, which enlists bank card merchant acquirers to sign small businesses for AmEx acceptance. The program generated 1 million merchant accounts for AmEx in 2016.
The Small Business Saturday spending estimates come from an aggregate of the consumer-reported average spend in surveys commissioned by AmEx tracking purchase habits on Small Business Saturday of consumers who were aware of the day. It does not reflect actual receipts or sales. Survey respondents came from a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The surveys have margins of error ranging from plus or minus 2-to-5.47 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.