AMEX’s Small Business Saturday Turns 5 With Etsy, Shinola, Simon and Garfunkel

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After five years of luring post-Black Friday shoppers to think small (and independent), Small Business Saturday is catching on.

But the annual U.S. shopping event to drive business to independent retailers, launched in 2009 by American Express, has a long way to go before it’s on a par with Black Friday or even Cyber Monday.

AmEx has managed to attract a lot of partners to Small Business Saturday over the years, including other small-biz advocates such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

This year, nearly 3,000 neighborhoods in every state and DC have signed on to host events and in-store promotions for shoppers. A handful of markets are featuring related events, such as Etsy Trunk Shows co-sponsored by American Express.

“It works because Small Business Saturday connects the small-business owner, the customer and the community, and each year that increases,” Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, a spokeswoman for the event and owner of Denver-based RetailMinded.com, told brandchannel.[more]

The continued support of AmEx is crucial, Reyhle adds, because “it helps bring power and visibility” to the event and “brings it to life,” as well as funding various initiatives associated with Small Business Saturday.

AmEx, for example, has commissioned artists to create Shop Small murals in 12 cities, and paid for the rights to use Simon and Garfunkel’s pitch-perfect America for the ad campaign (above).

The lending brand organized other marketing partners to boost digital buzz behind this year’s event, including Facebook, Verizon and AARP.

This year’s content marketing push includes videos about the importance of small-business vitality to some communities, including one about battered Detroit that features Motown’s small biz breakout brand, Shinola.

All in all, AmEx said that Americans spent $5.7 billion in local shops during last year’s Small Business Saturday, based on a survey of 1,000 people. But as Bloomberg Businessweek noted, that number “doesn’t tell us what respondents would have spent if they had never heard of the promotion.”

So it isn’t clear yet to what extent Small Business Saturday is actually benefiting its intended targets.

But it’s certainly boosting awareness for AmEx’s Small Business services and platform (which also began the American Express OPEN platform), and strengthens its connection to America’s hard-working, and struggling, local retailers and other businesses.

To borrow a rival’s tagline: The value of that outreach? Priceless.

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