NEW YORK — After the crowds have shopped at large stores and sprawling malls on Black Friday, many smaller businesses are hoping Saturday will be their day.
Thousands of small stores, restaurants, spas — and even dry cleaners — across the United States will offer their own discounts and promotions to draw holiday shoppers on what’s known as Small Business Saturday.
American Express created the day three years ago in what it calls an effort to help small businesses struggling during the recession. The credit and charge card company encourages cardholders who have registered in advance online to use their cards for purchases at participating businesses in exchange for a $25 rebate paid for by American Express.
The card company won’t say how much the promotion costs, but Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, the company’s small business division, says it is a considerable amount.
But even small merchants who aren’t officially part of the event hope to get a bump in revenue during a weekend when they formerly were all but forgotten in an avalanche of deep discounts offered by big stores and online retailers. Perhaps more important, the day has become an opportunity for small businesses to build a corps of customers who will keep coming back year-round.
In Dixon, Ill., 51 small businesses have banded together to recruit local artists and performers to create a partylike atmosphere on Saturday. A year ago, the combination of the American Express rebate and the events helped give the participating businesses a collective revenue increase of more than 50 percent the Saturday after Thanksgiving, said Lisa Higby, owner of a nursery and garden center there.
But the benefit goes beyond a one-day jolt. “It gives us a yearlong impact, much greater exposure for our business,” Ms. Higby said.
American Express may have intended to give small merchants — and card use — a boost in a tough economy, but Small Business Saturday is also helping small merchants get a bigger share of the spotlight and spending between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a shopping holiday dreamed up to get people excited about shopping online on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
To make the most of Small Business Saturday, many small business owners offer discounts as part of a marketing strategy for the entire holiday season.
Some small business owners will have the kind of early bird specials that Black Friday is famous for.
Eden Organix, a spa in Highland Park, N.J., will give customers a 10 percent discount on the products it sells from 9 a.m. to noon, said owner Valerie Robinson, who is promoting the event on Facebook, Twitter, and on her own Web site. She doesn’t expect to get a big revenue boost from the day — she’s more concerned about drawing new clients and cementing her relationship with current ones.
“We want to build more of a loyal customer base,” Ms. Robinson said.