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American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local

The Black Friday phenomenon, already a retail staple of the U.S. holiday calendar, is increasing in global popularity. However, the event is almost entirely to the benefit of large retailers who can afford to offer significant sales.

In response, American Express initiated Small Business Saturday in 2010, an event taking place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving which is designed to turn the focus on small, brick-and-mortar stores.

Amex encouraged shoppers to patronize local independent businesses through a TV and radio campaign in the U.S., offering further financial incentives to those who made purchases with Amex cards.

Correspondingly, the company also purchased advertising space on Facebook, which it offered to its own small business accounts at no extra charge.

Photo: One Mile At A Time

The campaign had a three-part strategy, namely:

  1. Providing the necessary tools for small businesses to participate.

  2. Encouraging consumers to support the project.

  3. Having an ‘official day’ recognized.

The program garnered immediate political support across the U.S., and in 2011, the Senate voted unanimously to officially declare Small Business Saturday as an official event.

In its second year, more than 5,000 small businesses took part in the event, and more than 103 million consumers shopped at local, independent stores on the day.

The campaign’s popularity has seen it exported abroad, arriving in the UK in 2013, which Amex similarly supports.

Much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday (where online retail is encouraged), the event has entered the national consciousness, not least due to the Senate vote.

Moreover, with small businesses comprising the backbone of the economy, the event has a natural customer base who participate each year.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Establish a dedicated day or event devoted to a cause that people within — and beyond — your customer base can associate with your business.

Kunle Campbell avatar

Kunle is a trusted advisor to ambitious, agile ecommerce brands. His core strengths lies in growing revenue by developing and executing scalable customer acquisition and search marketing strategies for online retailers.  He blogs, runs webinars and teach courses about ecommerce growth on He also hosts an ecommerce podcast dedicated to growing and scaling online retail businesses.