Small Business Saturday Not Big for Ecommerce

Dec 03, 2012 10:28 PM  By

Although countless consumers opted to stay local this holiday shopping weekend, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, spending $5.5 billion with independent merchants on Small Business Saturday, several online retailers are wondering how to get in on the action.

According to the NFIB, over 350 small business organizations supported the nationwide initiative, including Irish online gift retailer Ogham Art. And even though a majority of the traditional stores netted heavy profits on Small Business Saturday, many small online retailers feel like the ugly step child.

“Online businesses don’t really seem to be the target for Small Business Saturday,” said Chris Conway, Ogham Art owner.

Although Conway didn’t see a jump in sales on Saturday, he said, Ogham Art did see a profit over the weekend as a whole due to a cyber-weekend 30%-off promotions run on Facebook and Twitter. Even with a boost in sales over the weekend, Conway said, sales were lower than expected on Saturday.

The purpose of Small Business Saturday is to encourage consumers to shop locally and increase awareness on the value of locally owned small businesses. But a majority of consumers, Conway said, most likely think it only reflects traditional storefronts.

When asked what could be done to give online merchants more of a chance on Small Business Saturdays, Conway said the first step is to get involved. “I think we all need to help promote each other,” Conway said.

Conway isn’t suggesting you promote your competitors, but instead, if you do business with another small online retailer, (just like Gaelsong sells Ogham Art products) then why not promote that business on your site?

After all, that move might just help you could sell additional profit.

“We need to get like-minded people and pool together that day,” Conway said.

Gay Gasser, owner of the online care package and gift box retailer Mirth in a Box, agrees. Although she didn’t take part in Small Business Saturday (her business focus was on Cyber Monday), Gasser said many small ecommerce companies get left out because of the public perception that small businesses only means traditional brick and mortar stores.

David Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports which operates online and in a traditional storefront, said in an email, “I do think the day is focused more on driving people into stores rather than shopping online but it also speaks to the fact that people don’t realize there are a ton of small businesses also trying to succeed online.”

Tahoe Mountain Sports, Polivy wrote, saw “significantly higher” sales all holiday weekend but said it saw a 20% jump on Small Business Saturday.

Most of the Saturday sales, Polivy wrote, came through the tradition store because generally Saturdays tend to be slower online retail days. “In fact, [it’s] usually our slowest day of the week for online sales,” he wrote.

Although online business was slow, Polivy wrote, “We did get a few more people in the store who knew about Small Biz Saturday so I think it did resonate with people and helped drive store traffic.

When asked if she had any idea how to get the consumer actively thinking about ecommerce sites on Small Business Saturday, Gasser joked, “When you figure that out, let me know.”

Scott Krugman, director of corporate communications for American Express, said while Small Business Saturday did have a “Main Street” feel, the promotion was available to all small businesses, whether or not they had a bricks-and-mortar storefront or even accept American Express.

“Small online businesses have Cyber Monday as well, and they can leverage Small Business Saturday,” Krugman said.

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