American Express, the “small business” for credit cards, is teaming up with the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the first ever Small Business Saturday.
November 27, 2010 is the first-ever Small Business Saturdaysm. A day to come together in support of the small businesses we love. The shops and restaurants that employ our neighbors and reinvest our money close to home. The businesses that are the heartbeat of our communities and local economies.
What a crock. (They had to put a service mark on Small Business Saturday? am I in violation of some law by using the term without the sm?
Look at their logo, they are targeting the small businesses that are located in what used to be the traditional city center: the downtown.
Most downtowns as a retail shopping center died decades ago. Decades, I’m telling you. The small shops where the owner would wait on shoppers and maybe even know your name is long gone.
The few established small businesses that cater to retail shoppers are still in existence generally for a couple reasons:
- the business owns the building and it was paid for decades ago
- the owner of the business is too young/stubborn to retire, too old to change jobs
- it’s a hobby
So why was Small Business Saturday an Epic Fail?
Really? Sponsoring Small Business Saturday? Most of the small businesses I pass by don’t even take American Express. Treehugger says they are doing it to polish their image.
Ahem. Hey Amex! How about lowering or eliminating fees you charge small businesses for the shopping season?
National Trust for Historic Preservation.
One of those “feel good” groups that eventually become obstructionists when it comes to renovation.
SaveTheWindows.org is the perfect example. You are aware that we (taxpayers) are paying an incentive to replace old, inefficient windows, right? We actually participated in the program and replaced some windows at our house. I’m pretty sure the folks we hired would be considered a small business.
Here’s how the National Trust for Historic Preservation views this process:
What did beautiful, old windows ever do to deserve such heartless treatment? As you read this, homeowners across America are ripping innocent, unsuspecting, character-rich, older and historic windows out of their homes; casting them aside for new models. Their despair is clear. But the real tragedy is this: The sparkly allure of these new windows is short-lived. Most window manufacturers don’t want homeowners to know it, but repairing old windows can actually be cheaper and more energy efficient in the long run.
Yup, save the windows. Try to find a small business in the “window-saving” biz. You can’t. Unless you live in an Amish community.
Most small businesses think Facebook is a fad and where silly teenagers waste time. The overwhelming majority of small businesses don’t even have a Facebook presence. G’head, try to find your local small businesses on Facebook. Sure you’ll find a few restaurants and bars, and maybe even a gift store or two, but generally Facebook is for the larger brands and Big Box stores. Hell even the Big Box stores are relatively poorly represented on Facebook.
The idea behind Small Business Saturday was to put a day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday for small businesses. Which is fairly typical of the attitudes of small retail shopping businesses. Always late to the game. This year, more businesses moved their shopping UP at least a day – some stores moved their deals a week earlier!
Small Business Saturday should be the Saturday BEFORE Black Friday.
Do I have to point out how much discretionary spending is soaked up by the end of business Black Friday? If a merchant doesn’t have a good run going on Black Friday, it’s too late to get up a head of steam on Saturday.
Cyber Monday is popular because people are just sick to death of waiting in line. I don’t care where you shop, you will stand in line. Always. But Cyber Monday isn’t that big of a deal. Less than 10% of retail sales occur on Cyber Monday.
Small Business Mind Set.
I remember hearing 40 years ago, Charlie Mouser, a retail consultant, lecture on how small businesses in the downtown can prosper. His advice? Stop being open when only the unemployed can shop your store!
He said there was no more powerful a shopping force than a woman on her lunch hour.
Typical hours of a small business retailer: Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to noon; Closed Sunday.
He also nailed it with this advice:
- Don’t just tell me to shop at home. (Small Business Saturday) Give me specifc reasons why I should shop in this city and in your store.
- Give me reasons why I should come into your store and buy. Not just what, but why: save me money, save me time, protect my family, make me sexier, etc.
- Tell your customers that shopping at home keeps the money working here, circulating throughout the community.
- The sales taxes stay here, working for this area. Give them information.
Whuck? Spend money to make money? What a novel concept.
Charlie Mouser died a failure. His message went largely unheeded by the downtown merchants he was lecturing.
Kenneth Stone, an Iowa professor used to wander around small towns and lecture on how to survive the coming onslaught of WalMart (30 years ago.) Attendance at these lectures were small. The small business retailer that would be put out of business by WalMart was attending a basketball game or church social or just too damn lazy to come find out how to compete to save their butt.
Downtown associations are always popular with the pols. After all, who can be against saving the downtown, right? Everyone remembers “the good old days” of visiting the department store, the 5 & dime store, having lunch at the drug store counter, visiting with friends and neighbors on the sidewalk, right?
Wrong. Only old people (me) can remember those days, and I was a kid! But because the center of government is located in or near the downtown and the power structure works there, downtowns are a favorite place to spend tax dollars under the guise of “saving downtown.”
Who sits on the downtown renewal boards? Bankers, insurance agents, lawyers, elected officials, paid staff, and vendors who sell to retailers. Where are the merchants who will benefit? They closed up shop and went home at six to call their elected officials to back the proposal to spend tax dollars to save the downtown.
How is the money spent?
- Benches for the pigeons.
- Giveaway programs to improve storefronts to benefit the building owner.
- Pretty flowers that eventually turn to weed-beds.
- Fancy lighting that is inefficient and expensive to maintain.
- Re-routing traffic and then routing it back the way it was before.
Small Business Saturday failed because the small businesses left in the downtown don’t care. Those small businesses that do care have moved to a strip mall and adapted and adopted and imitated the Big Box stores.