5 Mistakes to Avoid on Small Business Saturday

Read Time: 5 minutes

Last week I was very excited to share that collectively American Small Businesses have sold a total of $954 million of products and services per hour over the last 10 years on Small Business Saturday.  Now I know some retailers made more than others, but have you looked at your books for the last 10 years and accounted for what part of the pie you’ve earned.  Once you do, feel free to come back and continue reading.  I have no doubt many of you may be on the high side, and many of you may be on the low side, but that is typical.  In fact, besides outliers that’ll be the usual requirement for finding the average.  Now that we have some idea of where you lie on the spectrum, let’s make sure you are not committing any of these 5 common mistakes.

What is Small Business Saturday?

November 30, 2019, will mark the 10th annual anniversary of the shopping holiday.  According to the 2018 Small Business Economic Impact Report commissioned by American Express

“Every time you pick up a coffee at your local café, grab lunch at the mom-and-pop shop, or buy a new bag from a local store. You’re making an impact in your community. In fact, for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S. approximately 67 cents stay in the local community.”

Per Wikipedia Small Business Saturday is an American shopping holiday held the Saturday after US Thanksgiving during one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. This Saturday is always the last one in November, so it falls between November 24 and November 30.

It was designed by American Express to counterbalance the large shopping day known as Black Friday that typically benefitted big box stores or the emerging Cyber Monday that was benefitting online retailers. 

An Important Message From a Mentor

It was right after undergrad when I moved to Atlanta. I had zero friends, zero families, and yes I did it all for the Glory of Love.  For those of you who are too young or don’t remember that’s the theme song to Karate Kid II.   In case you were wondering it paid off, we married 10 years later and are happily married 4 years later. So, while there I began working on the AT&T U-Verse Campaign and met my first mentor.

One day that mentor told me a story that quite literally changed the path of my life forever.  He told me the tale of his father who was a missionary in a small South American Country.  For the sake of this story, we’ll call his father Bob, and Ben will be his janitor friend.  It was Bob’s mission to travel to this place he had never been, in a community that was also unknown to him, and begin a mission there.  On the very first Sunday that Bob began, he asked Ben, his Janitor friend, to layout 50 chairs.  It wasn’t long into the sermon that Ben realized that no one was going to show, so he motioned to Bob, requesting he begin to pick up chairs.  Finally, five minutes before the service ended a single person showed.  Once the service was over Ben and Bob picked up all the chairs.

  The next Sunday Ben asked Bob if this week they could only layout 25 chairs, and to Ben’s surprise, Bob declined.  So, there they went and laid out 50 chairs but this time only two people showed.  This was the unfortunate occurrence for Bob and Ben for many more months, until one day Ben looked out to see more than 60+ people in attendance.  After services that day Ben turned to Bob and asked, “How did you know that they would come?” to which Bob replied, “I didn’t, I just had faith that if I kept doing the right thing over and over again, the right things would happen.  I knew that if I put out 10 chairs, that meant I only expected our efforts to bring 10 people.”   

So, what I learned that day, is a lesson I have taught ever since.  By cutting corners, skipping steps and expecting less, I’m only telling myself that, that’s what I deserve.  I’d like you to view these 5 mistakes, not just in the lenses of Small Business Saturday, but in the lenses of typical- loyal customer expectations. 

5 common mistakes for Small Business Saturday?

  1. Not Promoting it. 
    1. I wish I was sitting with you and we could test this theory right now.  If I were a betting man, I’d wager that if you ask 10 total strangers, “What date is Small Business Saturday this year?” 80% of them would have no clue without looking it up.  So why aren’t you spreading it? If you don’t think your customers and neighbors’ customers will come for it, they won’t.  Remember the story of Bob and Ben, if you don’t place the 50 seats every time, you can’t ever expect 50 people to show up. 
  2. Not Staffing Appropriately
    1. I know, last year you overstaffed because the year before that you understaffed, but this time no one showed.  Well here is an obvious thought you may not have realized.  All those customers that came the previous year, might not have thought it was ever worth it to come back.  If your competitive edge is customer service or customer education like many of my clients, how were you able to prove that to them when you were overwhelmed.  I’ve had clients that have made similar mistakes with understaffing on “Groupon” specials as well. 
  3. Not Accepting AMEX
    1. While this one may be very much based on your customers it’s actually a bigger deal than you may think.  According to this Business Insider Article, American Express Users spend about $1,000.00 more per month.  Again I understand completely.  With their 3.5% and $0.05 fee, combined with their Charge Back terms, they are hands down the most expensive to accept. But who wouldn’t want all of their customers spending 100% more in their store?  Combine that with the next mistake and it’s a no brainer. 
  4. Not Registering for the AMEX “Shop Small Merchant Maps.”
    1. To be fair, I had no idea about this until I read it on a blog by Caitlyn Mendonca.  Caitlyn Mendonca is a fantastic writer for Pet Food Experts.  You can actually read her entire article “Kick Off the Holiday Season on Small Business Saturday” Here.  I highly recommend doing so!
  • Her recommendation is above but you should still go to her site for directions and more information in general.   
  • Closing Early/Opening Late
    • While I was in school, I worked in several jobs. The one I was best at was a bar and restaurant promotor.  Next door to one of the bars I worked for was a Crepe Place. I never got to go to this food place because it was never open when it said it was.  Please don’t make this same mistake they did and especially not on this day.  As a loyal customer, I assure you, nothing worse than getting there before you close and still seeing the door locked and lights off. 


I would say that over 75% of my clients mention Customer Service or Customer Education when I ask them what their true competitive advantage is.  If that is true with you as well please don’t commit more than one of these typical Small Business Blunders on Small Business Saturday. Unfortunately, today’s fickle consumers can take a lifetime to build and just several big mistakes to ruin it.  But don’t worry because if it is important for your business to always try and do the right things all the time, your customers will know it, and so will your P&L. 

Mark Nelms is a Business Development Manager for Pet Rewards POS.  He has conducted over 400 interviews with retailers from almost every vertical and size.  In prior roles, he’s assisted clients like Cumberland Packaging Corporation (Sweet N’ Low), The New England Patriots, and NCR (National Cash Register.)

Check out part one of our Small Business Saturday series!

5 Tips and Tricks for Small Business Saturday