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Getting Your Business Ready for Small Business Saturday

Is your business ready for the holidays? Here's how you can get your business ready for Small Business Saturday.

Female business owner of as clothing shop holding a package and looking at her laptop

The small business communities in Wisconsin and Illinois are some of the strongest in the country. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are over 1.5 million small businesses in Wisconsin and Illinois—in fact, 99.4% and 99.6% of the businesses in each of these states respectively are small businesses. And though big retailers might take the lead on holiday spending, small businesses generate a significant portion of their revenue each year during this season, with 80% of stores relying on these sales for their bottom line. 

Whether you’re just Starting a Business in Beloit or nearby communities, or have an establishment that’s been around for years, Small Business Saturday can play an important role in your business’s financial success. Because we have so many small businesses in our banking community, we wanted to focus this blog on providing advice for how to prepare and make the most of this Small Business Saturday. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Small Business Saturday?

As its official sponsor the U.S. Small Business Administration explains, Small Business Saturday is “a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.” While shoppers go all out snagging big deals from large retailers on Black Friday the day before, Small Business Saturday is meant to focus attention on the smaller ones. It gives small businesses a chance to compete with major establishments, and gives communities a chance to get to know the local shopping opportunities that cater to the unique needs and interests of their area. 

Why is Small Business Saturday Important?

Small Business Saturday is right at the start of the official holiday season. Landing in the middle of the long holiday weekend, when families have time to spare and are looking for opportunities to get out of the house and get into the holiday spirit, this shopping day draws nearly 60 million customers annually. These customers end up spending a lot—over $23 billion in 2021. 

But this day of shopping does more than benefit businesses. When you shop locally-owned stores, your money stays local. As the American Independent Business Alliance shows, while only 13.6% of money spent at major chains stayed local, 48% of funds spent at small, local businesses did, benefiting the community, rather than the shareholders and owners of large corporations.

Because of the popularity of this local shopping day and the marketing opportunities it presents to small businesses, engaging in this commerce day is a great way to jumpstart your holiday sales and grow interest in your business. But having a successful Small Business Saturday does require some prep work.

How to Get Ready for Small Business Saturday and the Coming Holiday Season

It’s not enough to simply open your doors on Saturday, or just expect shoppers to come to your website. There are many deals out there during this time, including ongoing ones from larger retailers. And not everyone even knows about Small Business Saturday. You are still going to have to do some work to make your business prepared so that the potentially busy day goes smoothly for you and your customers. Here are some important things you can do to get ready for the day:
  1. Make sure your inventory is up to date. Working with supply chain delays, shortages, and price surges may make it difficult to keep your inventory in stock and up to date. That’s why it’s important to order early and in sufficient quantities, so you don’t experience issues later in the season. Do your market research to try to gauge relevant trends, as well as holiday-themed items. Keep in mind that if you need funds to cover these inventory purchases up front, you could consider getting a small business loan.
  2. Spruce up the storefront. If your store has a brick-and-mortar location, take some time to get it ready for holiday crowds. Make necessary repairs, check light bulbs, clean windows and other areas of the store thoroughly, and choose some tasteful decorations to get your customers in the holiday spirit.  
  3. Offer ‘Small Business Saturday’ Deals. One of the best ways to reach out to local shoppers this time of year and build your customer base is to entice them to take advantage of seasonal promotions. You can do storewide promotions, like 10% off on all items, or select sales like buy-one, get-one deals. Because bigger stores may be extending their Black Friday sales, it’s crucial to show that you are competitive, so that your potential customers looking for deals see your business as an option. You can also consider in-store events and giveaways as additional ways to draw in business. 
  4. Promote your business’s participation in Small Business Saturday. Sales mean nothing if no one knows about them. Particularly if your establishment (online or physical) doesn’t get a lot of traffic, it’s important to promote yourself in a variety of ways, to reach out to as many potential customers as possible. These could include: 
    • Social Media Posts: Create organic posts using the hashtags #smallbusinesssaturday and #shopsmall. You can also consider creating a Facebook event and sending out invitations to followers.
    • Ads: Purchase ads in local papers, coupon magazines, online coupon websites, and social media platforms.
    •  Reach out to your existing customers using a variety of methods, including email newsletters and announcements and postcards/paper mail.
  5. Get your website in order. If your website is in need of an update, consider getting it ready in time for the holidays. While you might not be able to get a complete overhaul by the holiday season, making sure your website security, forms, template and/or plugins are up to date, to ensure that your website doesn’t experience any outages during the busiest time of year. Double check that all of your products are listed, stocked, and the inventories are accurate. If you don’t currently have an ecommerce platform, but think your website would benefit from one, consider setting one up or hiring a web designer to help.
  6. Get a POS (Point of Sale) System. More and more people are choosing to leave cash at home for the convenience of credit and debit cards. And customers like to use digital wallets and contactless cards when they can, for ease of use as well as hygienic reasons. Having the latest technology will make your customers feel safer using their cards in your establishment and reflects well on you as a business. If you don’t have a POS system, or your current system is outdated, consider obtaining a new one in time for the holidays.
  7. Make sure your software and networks are secure. In order to avoid computer system outages, be sure that all software that your business uses, including your website and payment systems, as well as any other software you use for accounting, payroll, and human resources, is up-to-date and secure. Complete any software updates available, and when your devices or software are no longer supported, replace them with a more current version. Additionally, if you don’t already use a VPN (virtual private network), it’s time to start. VPNs allow devices to connect to secure networks, without putting those networks, or other devices on those networks at risk from cyberattacks. There are also many other things you can do to protect your business from cybersecurity risks. Check out our post, “Top 5 Ways to Protect Your Business from Cybersecurity Threats” for more tips.  
  8. Partner with other small businesses. Being part of your local business community is a great way to spread the word about your business. Speak to the businesses near you and ask if they would like to share flyers or business cards to display at each other’s locations. You may also consider sharing ad space, offering special discounts for customers who shop at both locations,, or cross-promoting each other’s events on social media, as additional ways to boost your holiday sales.
  9. Streamline your accounting with Cash Management. Saving time on accounting during the holidays is essential to running a smooth operation during this busy time of year. And the more organized and efficient your record-keeping system is, the easier it will be to complete your quarterly and annual tax returns. Utilizing Cash Management Services through your bank, including Merchant Services to easily accept card payments, Remote Deposit Capture to save trips to the branch, and Zero Balance Accounts to keep your expense categories organized can help do just that.
  10. Employ enough staff. This year many large retailers are hiring additional seasonal workers to get them through the holiday shopping crunch, and you may want to follow their lead. Meeting customers’ demands during the holiday season is an important way to build and keep your customer base for the rest of the year. But time is of the essence. Hire well in advance so that your new staff will have enough time to learn the POS systems, know how to navigate your business, and answer any other common questions that your customers might ask.
  11. Create gift cards. Exceptionally popular during the holiday season, gift cards are excellent ways to add profits to your margins, while not handling the immediate impact on your inventory. You can create both physical and digital cards to accommodate in –person and online shoppers. 
  12. Be clear about your return or refund policy. Larger retailers may have more flexible return policies, leading customers to have the expectation that all businesses do. It’s important to spell out your return policy on receipts or online order confirmations, to avoid any issues down the line. 

Prepare for Small Business Saturday in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

At First National Bank and Trust, we strive to provide our small business customers with the tools and services they need to effectively manage their cash flow, reduce time spent on bookkeeping and money management, and make effective financial choices that will help them succeed this holiday season, and for years to come. 

From Cash Management Services including Merchant Services and Digital Payments to Small Business Loans, we have the products to help your business grow and prosper. With locations throughout Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, from Elkhorn and Beloit to Winnebago, we are sure to have a branch convenient to your business. Stop in one today to see what we can do for you!