We publish this week on “Black Friday,” the day in the calendar year when the nation’s retailers would sell so much merchandise to Christmas shoppers that their operations for the entire year would stop running in the red and move into the black.
It really is not the busiest shopping day of the year — these days, that comes a couple of days before Christmas itself, when all of us wake up and realize that we’re almost out of time. But “Black Friday,” with its traditional-as-Turkey doorbuster sales now beginning weeks before the actual day itself, was such a great marketing brand that Internet merchants jumped at the chance to corner the start of the following work week as “Cyber Monday.” And it worked: that’s the day that all of us, while we’re supposed to be hard at work at our desks, are instead using office time to go to this-or-that-dot-com and load up.
Stuck in the middle of all of that is another bit of genius marketing: Small Business Saturday.
American Express, the credit card company, owns the “Small Business Saturday” brand and, to its credit, spends big dollars annually on its promotions and public awareness campaigns for the businesses participating. And good for them.
The real chin-stroker here is that American Express, generally, is the most expensive card for small businesses to accept as payment from a customer. Every time we use our credit card, the merchant pays a percentage of that sale to his or her credit card processor, with rates varying depending on the card presented. AmEx, a great product, is right up there with the most costly for businesses.
Perhaps the company came up with it to assuage some of the bad Karma they might fear for the high price associated with accepting the card. But, of course, the company stands to win big every year on its big branded day because businesses are encouraged to splash the AmEx-approved logo everywhere and offer nifty deals if we whip out our AmEx cards on Small Business Saturday.
We don’t want to be too cynical here because, as one independent retailer told us, “We’ll take any publicity we can get.”
Yes. Any publicity for small business is a great thing, particularly when big-brand merchants are clobbering each other with how-low-can-you-go price wars that fight for our holiday shopping dollars.
We worry, though, that by setting aside only one day for patronizing small business, too many shoppers
will think, “I did my duty. I bought a thing at an independent retailer on Small Business Saturday. I’ll check that box, brag on my social media, and then go buy all my other presents from one of the national brands.”
We hope shoppers in Otsego County and elsewhere remember that every day in the calendar year is the right day to shop at your independent merchants, your Main Street restaurants, your nearby distilleries and farm stands, and, yes, your hometown newspapers. This page is, as readers know, an unabashed supporter of every local business across our region. We don’t need a single Saturday set aside by a big corporation to remind us of the importance of our local businesses old and new.”
Small businesses won’t survive because we’ve set aside one day on our calendar to shop or eat there.
They won’t survive because we toss out feel-good platitudes that like “small businesses are the backbone of our community.”
Sure, those are nice words, but the best way — the only way — to keep our small businesses open and thriving is for us to get out our wallets and spend our money all year long.