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Winter 2012 Sales Spike on Small Business Saturday

Specialty retailers are lending their voices to the growing “Small Business Saturday” campaign that encourages consumers to “Shop Small” on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Small Business Saturday is a national initiative that asks people to dedicate an entire day–the Saturday after Thanksgiving–to supporting independent retailers. “Certainly, this is a program that is a natural fit for Main Street retailers. But, the bottom line is that cart and kiosk retailers are small, independently owned businesses that perfectly fit the profile,” says Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report magazine and advisor and spokesperson for Small Business Saturday.

American Express launched the program in 2010, and this year the credit card company was joined by more than 230 organizations such as FedEx and Facebook who also signed up as program sponsors. In addition to a robust advertising campaign that helped to spread the word on the consumer level, there was widespread media coverage and retailers initiated their own marketing programs to galvanize shopper support.

Traditionally, shoppers use Thanksgiving weekend to kick start holiday shopping or even get the bulk of their holiday shopping done. Especially in this economy, many families have a pre-determined holiday budget. “So it is important that small businesses grab their piece of the pie over the holiday weekend,” says Norins.

Promotional highlights included TV ads and a Facebook page that drew more than 2.7 million fans–double the volume compared to 2010. The campaign also encouraged businesses to take advantage of a small business tool kit that included information and templates for emarketing, in-store signage and YouTube videos among other items. Some of the incentives from program sponsors included a $25 credit from American Express for cardholders who spent $25 at any small business in their community or online. The numbers show that Small Business Saturday spurred an estimated 103 million Americans to shop at independently owned businesses and awareness of the campaign rose to 65 percent in 2011 as compared to 37 percent in 2010.

Specialty retail impact

Kiosk operator Marshall Terrin believes that the promotion of Small Business Saturday helped boost sales at the four cart and kiosk locations that his company owns and operates as Pain-Less Therapeutic Solutions. “I found out about it late. So we just informed our customers while we were demonstrating our products,” says Terrin, chief executive officer of Pain-Less Therapeutic Solutions Inc. The company operates carts and kiosks at malls in Raleigh, NC, Oklahoma City and Wichita, KS.

However, the word-of-mouth combined with the power of the national Small Business Saturday campaign made a big difference. For example, Saturday sales tripled at the kiosk in Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh and sales doubled at its two Wichita locations compared to the prior year. “Most customers were surprised to hear that we were a small business, because I think the assumption with most shoppers is that anyone in a mall is a very large chain,” says Terrin. Pain-Less Therapeutic is already looking ahead to next year and plans to make a more concentrated effort to promote the Small Business Saturday to mall shoppers with signage, buttons for staff to wear and online marketing.

As the Small Business Saturday program continues to gain momentum, the logical progression is for it to gain a bigger foothold in malls and shopping centers. “Although a number of cart and kiosk operators did embrace the program this year, there is a lot of awareness that still needs to happen in the specialty leasing industry,” says Norins. “My hope is that for year three of the program that we will see more and more cart and kiosk retailers participating in the program as the initiative spreads.”

Beth Mattson-Teig

Beth Mattson-Teig is a freelance business writer based in Minneapolis, Minn. She specializes in covering the national commercial real estate industry.

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