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The History of Small Business Saturday

Over the years, we’ve learned that most people prefer not to think about food after inhaling so much of it on Thanksgiving, so our co-op doesn’t usually do anything big on Small Business Saturday other than open our doors and put on a smile for the shoppers who wander in. We certainly support any initiative that aims to help out local makers, however, and this one has certainly grown since its inception over a decade ago.

Small Business Saturday is a national holiday that takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. It started as a marketing campaign, first launched by credit card company American Express on November 27, 2010, to help small businesses gain exposure and to encourage customers to shop for gifts within their own communities during the holidays. This special day was designated an official United States holiday in 2011 when Washington State mayors, governors, and senators along with former President Barack Obama shared their support for it. A year later, American Express expanded the campaign by offering small business owners free personalized advertisements, signs, and other materials to use in their stores and online ahead of the event. As a result, an estimated $5.5 billion was spent at small businesses nationwide that year, and in 2013, communities all over the nation began celebrating the holiday as well, with many vocally pledging to support to their own local businesses in a bigger way.

Participation in Small Business Saturday has continued to grow year after year. American Express recently reported that shoppers have spent an estimated $120 billion at small businesses on Small Business Saturday since launching the campaign. In 2015, the number of Small Business Saturday shoppers increased by 8% from 2014 to more than 95 million people; meanwhile, spending reached $16.2 billion that year. As online shopping has become especially popular over the last few years as well, spending grew another 13% between 2019 and 2020 and then increased another 2% in 2021.

Thanks to this campaign, most Americans now know what Small Business Saturday is, and nearly all of those who participate recognize how important it is to their communities. It’s also become one of the most important shopping days of the year for many small business owners, especially those who make their own goods or have storefronts in town.

If you’ll be heading out to shop the weekend of Thanksgiving, consider going out of your way to visit local shops. And don’t forget you can also browse online from the comfort of your home if you prefer to stay in but still want to be part of Small Business Saturday. Many small businesses have online stores, run special deals that weekend, and offer curbside pickup! However you do it, shopping local matters because it has a positive effect on our entire community. The more money you spend at local businesses, the more of your dollars stay right here in the Chippewa Valley. That means there’s more money in our local economy for new job opportunities, more fun community events, better schools, improved housing options, far-reaching charitable organizations, and so much more. And it’s all possible if each one of us makes an effort to change a few of our shopping habits ahead of the season of giving.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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