By: Cheryl Winokur Munk
Many small businesses have a reason to be jolly this holiday season. Despite lingering economic concerns, Small Business Saturday sales data is slightly better than expected.
U.S. Consumers spent $5.5 billion at small businesses on Saturday Nov. 24, according to the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, released yesterday by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express.
Pre-holiday surveys estimated that shoppers would spend $5.3 billion. Since this is the first year NFIB and Amex have tracked consumer spending on Small Business Saturday, here is no comparable sales data for previous years.
Nonetheless, momentum for Small Business Saturday seems to be growing. Indeed, consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 67 percent from 34 percent just two weeks ago, according to NFIB and Amex.
"The good news is that consumers are aware of shopping small and they are doing it in a lot of different ways," said Patricia Norins, a spokesperson for Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday — the Saturday after Thanksgiving — was created by American Express in 2010 as a way to drum up more business for small companies who may not benefit from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales boosts like their larger counterparts do.
Indeed, a recent report by Bank of America showed that 91 percent of small business owners said Black Friday has either a minor or no impact on their business's bottom line, and 81 percent believe Cyber Monday is over-hyped and has no bottom line significance. The Fall 2012 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, conducted by Braun Research, did not address Small Business Saturday.
Nonetheless, it's clear that many small merchants are doing what they can to make Small Business Saturday successful, placing decals on storefronts and using online tools and materials to get the word out.
More than 350 small business organizations supported the nationwide initiative with more than 50 Chambers of Commerce and 60 groups organizing events and activities in support of the day. There has also been a big social media campaign, with more than 3.2 million Facebook users "liking" the Small Business Saturday page.
While consumers remain concerned about the economy, holiday shopping hasn't been abandoned. Total spending for Thanksgiving weekend rose 13 percent to $59.1 billion from a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation, which does not break out the data by business size.
A National Retail Federation consumer survey conducted by BIGinsight found that shoppers spent an average of spent $423 over the weekend, up 6.3 percent from $398 last year.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year. Meanwhile, online sales on Cyber Monday rose 30.3 percent over 2011, according to IBM Benchmark, which tracks online sales.