A survey of independent business owners, on behalf of Small Business Saturday and its principal supporter American Express, found that almost three quarters (74%) think it is increasingly hard to rely on Christmas revenues, with 61% saying the season has not been the same since COVID-19, and a third still worried about the effects of inflationary pressures and the cost-of-living crisis.
Clearly, small businesses need a massive boost.
Enter Small Business Saturday! Every year, on the first weekend in December, the campaign encourages customers across the UK to support all types of small businesses, online, in offices and in stores. Many small businesses take part in the day by hosting events and offering promotions, and even collaborating with other entrepreneurs, as well as getting involved in the hype on social media.
Beginning its second decade in the UK, Small Business Saturday is the UK’s most successful small business campaign. Over the time it has been running in the UK, it has engaged millions and seen billions of pounds spent with small businesses across the UK on Small Business Saturday.
And this year the impact continues to be strong—over 11 million people supported small businesses on the day, spending a collective £669m, according to analysis of the campaign from Small Business Saturday and American Express. Wider support for 2023’s Small Business Saturday came from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who welcomed small businesses, charities, and local communities to Downing Street as part of a festive Christmas market. Government ministers joined MPs from all political parties and local councils in positing their support on social media.
Our data shows that people want to support business owners (45%) and are recognising what a tough year it has been for small businesses (38%). Of those consumers upping their support for small businesses, three fifths (61%) say they are shopping small where possible; over half (56%) are recommending small businesses to friends and family; and almost a third (30%) are following them on social media.
Even more promising is the outlook for the festive season, and the year ahead. Almost two thirds (63%) of Britons say they will continue to shop at small businesses throughout the festive season, and 66% plan to support small businesses next year because of the positive impact they have on their local community.
This is exactly the magic that Small Business Saturday aims to bring—a spotlight that extends far beyond the day on which we celebrate. And this support is vital, given that the peak festive period was essential for many small businesses, plenty of them unable to rely on revenue around that time of year like they once could, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is hugely heartening. After a string of major challenges, including a pandemic and extreme economic conditions, entrepreneurs have shown characteristic resilience.
But while there is much to be optimistic about, the economic challenges small businesses are dealing with this year will not magically disappear in 2024, so optimism will not be enough. In the words of Arancha Gonzalez Laya from her time at the UN – “don’t be an optimist or a pessimist, be an activist”.
If we want our entrepreneurs to stay vibrant and to continue to be the heart of the economy and of our culture, we have to look after them and advocate for them. We have done this brilliantly during Small Business Saturday—but we can, and should, keep going.
How? Be active with your spending; be active with your choices; share that with friends and family and work and policy makers and of course, on social media channels, where the love can reach your favourite small firms directly.
These are the learnings I want us to take away from the eleventh year of Small Business Saturday—if we show up for our nation’s small businesses, they can weather the harsh conditions over the winter, and beyond.
The support for small businesses this Small Business Saturday has been phenomenal, and I am extremely proud of our community for what we have achieved. Now let’s make that the case every day into 2024 and beyond.