Small Business Saturday December 2014

Posted on: 17 January 2014

7 December 2013 was a bumper day for many independent SMEs across the UK. If you read the hype, SME retailers across the UK cashed in almost half a billion pounds on that Saturday alone.

But some SMEs are sceptical about the success of Small Business Saturday – look behind the figures and the success may not warrant the hype.

A quick reminder: what is Small Business Saturday?

Borrowed from the US, Small Business Saturday is a cross-party initiative championed by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna. It aimed to encourage shoppers to visit local, independent stores on 7 December 2013 and beyond.

The Small Business Saturday website contained help and resources for businesses to show their support to the campaign, and organisations (large and small, public and private) hosted events, launched promotions and generally got excited about encouraging shoppers to spend money in small, independently owned businesses.

The event gained high profile backing from Ingenious Britain (the government campaign to support SMEs), the Federation of Small Businesses, local councils and big names like James Caan, Martha Lane Fox and Theo Paphitis. It was sponsored by American Express and supported by big hitters such as O2, Not-On-The-High-Street and Aldermore Bank.

Do the figures say it was a success?

Well it depends on how you want to look at it.

According to research by American Express, just under half of UK consumers were aware of Small Business Saturday and 43% of shoppers chose to visit local, independently owned businesses specifically because of the campaign. American Express estimated that almost half a billion pounds was spent in small businesses on the day. That’s not insignificant.

According to Twitter, on 7 December there were almost 33,000 mentions of Small Business Saturday and #SmallBizSatUK trended throughout the day. In addition, more than 1.5 million people viewed posts on the Small Business Saturday Facebook page.

But…

  • 61% of Tweets about Small Business Saturday came from London, where only 16% of the UK’s small businesses are based.
  • Only 40 of the more than 2,000 towns and cities across the UK offered free parking to encourage footfall on the day (that’s less than 2%).
  • Whilst Small Business Saturday’s Twitter page amassed almost 10,000 followers, that only represents less than 1% of the 5 million small businesses based in the UK.
  • Small Business Saturday’s LinkedIn following was just 150.

Does it matter what the figures say?

In short, no. Data can be sliced and diced in all sorts of ways until it gives the desired answer - American Express were always going to publish results that showed the campaign was a success. Cutting the figures differently has provided a counter argument for ways the campaign could have been a failure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was.

So what now?

Shopping local isn’t just for Christmas. With Ingenious Britain and countless other local, regional and national campaigns spear-heading the support of small, independent businesses, Small Business Saturday can only get bigger.

Until the 2014 date for Small Business Saturday is announced, our advice for small businesses is to rally together, get their local council supporting them, engage with their local communities and shout from the roof tops about what they are doing. Just like some did on 7 December, this needs to be sustained throughout the year so that come next Christmas, it’s almost impossible to cut the numbers in a negative way.


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