Like most people, I haven’t waded through in-person crowds on Black Friday in several years, but I’ve been taking part in the holiday virtually since 2020. After Thanksgiving dinner, I retreat to the couch and start filling shopping carts on my phone, trying to do my Christmas shopping while the best deals are live.
This year I plan to do something different. Make no mistake; On Thursday evening I will probably still be lounging on the couch. But I’ll be doing most of my Christmas shopping two days later than usual – on Small Business Saturday.
Nestled between the consumerist mega-holidays Black Friday and Cyber Monday is something healthier, but just as American. Small Business Saturday was launched by American Express in 2011 to encourage people to do some of their Christmas shopping with small businesses. The holiday always falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and this year that’s November 26, 2022.
Here’s why I’m skipping Black Friday for Small Business Saturday this year and how I’m planning for it.
Why I shop small
I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina for 20 years and one thing that has stayed constant here is growth. According to an analysis by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, Charlotte’s population has grown 16.3 percent since 2010, far outpacing North Carolina (9.5 percent) and the US as a whole (7.4 percent).
Many new businesses have sprung up in recent years – from sportswear stores to boutiques to gourmet ice cream parlors. But while I’m a big fan of many of the developments that have taken place to accommodate the city’s booming growth rate, it’s bittersweet. As exciting as a new brewery or corporate headquarters is, it’s hard to watch mom and pop businesses being sidelined, either closing altogether or relocating to cheaper areas of the city when rent increases price them out.
It’s a complex subject, but I make it my mission to support the small businesses I cherish. If you’re sad when a favorite store closes, don’t wait until you hear they’re going out of business to visit. Come by – and bring your wallet with you.
Small Business Saturday is a way to put my money where my mouth is. Here’s how I do it.
How to shop on Small Business Saturday
This year I’m shopping for my two siblings, three parents, my childhood best friend and my significant other. On Small Business Saturday I use a combination of rewards credit cards to ensure I get the maximum cashback.
I hope to get most of my shopping done on Saturday and to help with that goal I’ve planned ahead. So can you.
Saturday events for local small businesses
Fortunately, Charlotte has market pop-ups year-round. And a quick Google search for “Charlotte Small Business Saturday” revealed a decades-old tradition surrounding the holiday. Each year on this Saturday, several open-air markets occupy popular, walkable areas and are home to more than 200 vendors in total.
Sipping a coffee and walking through a market is one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning, so I’ll definitely show up to the Small Business Saturday Market with a shopping bag ready. One of the markets called Shop Small Saturdays will also be open in December so I can do my shopping in waves if needed.
I recommend starting with a similar search for your city to find the biggest events.
Organize your own small business tour
If your city isn’t hosting something special for Small Business Saturday, that doesn’t mean you can’t attend.
Many towns have general markets on Saturdays which are handy for Christmas shopping as you can park once and browse hundreds of types of vendors. Even if it’s a farmer’s market, for example, you might find good stocking fillers or small gifts, like handmade soap, locally roasted coffee, or hot sauces in small batches.
Another option is to make a list of your favorite nearby stores and devote a few hours to shopping. If you need help brainstorming, American Express offers a Small Business Saturday card where you can enter your zip code to find participating businesses. Of course, you don’t have to limit your purchases to companies that appear on American Express’s map, but these may be more likely to offer sales or promotions since they’ve pre-registered with Amex.
It’s great to support your local community when you can, but the internet makes it possible to shop small anywhere in the US. Consider digitally supporting an Etsy shop, artist, or other small business on Small Business Saturday. Check out our list of unique gifts supporting small businesses for inspiration.
Vouchers: the darling of the public
I love shopping but I understand why some people dread the holiday shopping season. Crowds are one thing, and then there’s the pressure of finding the right gift for everyone on your list. If you’ve searched for hours for the perfect gift only to end up buying that dreaded candle, I can assure you that you are not alone.
Enter gift cards. From the business owner’s point of view, a sale is a sale, but a gift card can save you from endless contemplation. Check the company’s website or call ahead to see if you can purchase a gift card.
Gift cards also open up a whole new category of giving: restaurants. I will probably choose this route for my father and stepmother. I wrestle with their gifts because they are very disorderly. I think they would appreciate a gift card to their favorite local restaurant though.
The final result
I’m basically an idealist, so I tend to get romantic about world-improving initiatives like Small Business Saturday. At the same time, I live in moderation. I will not emphasize the joy of giving by forcing myself to buy only local Christmas gifts. Small Business Saturday is my starting point. I’ll be thrilled if I can check off my entire list in one day, but I’m open to filling in the blanks with big retailers.
For example, I’m interested in seeing what I can find for my brother on Small Business Saturday. He tends to love tech gadgets so I’m not sure I’ll find a good fit by buying small. But who knows? I may be surprised. Either way, what matters is the intention to support small businesses.