Get in on Small Business Saturday


Boat dealerships are small businesses and we should point with pride to that fact. It’s also reason enough to participate in Small Business Saturday, which is coming up on Nov. 29.

Small Business Saturday has become a very successful retailing event. Created by American Express in 2010, there is now nationwide recognition of the event that encourages consumers to shop and support small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Is it working? Surveys document its success. In 2013, consumers who acknowledged knowing about Small Business Saturday spent $5.7 billion with independent retailers that day, up 3.6 percent from 2012, according to American Express. In fact, it has become as much a “shop small business” movement as a national sales promotion.

This year, small retailers can receive free materials including welcome mats, tote bags, stickers and more directly from American Express. Moreover, the promotional items will be delivered free, compliments of FedEx. There are also printable signs, ad models and more. There are eligibility requirements (no online-only businesses, under $10 million in sales, no franchise brands) which most marine dealers can meet. However, the deadline for requesting materials is coming up fast — 11:59 PM ET on Nov. 14. See for information.

So how about some ideas for cashing in on the projected $985 billion in holiday consumer spending projected for this year because of the improving economy:

First, immediately post signs inside and outside the store announcing you’re going to participate in the event day. At the same time, rev up your email (and social media list, etc) announcing your participation on Small Business Saturday. And always use every opportunity to sign up more people for your email list.

Next, get your dealership team together for some creative ideas and set a plan. Do it now. For example, decide if you’ll offer some truly special prices on accessories, clothing, tubes, skis, gift cards or suggested Christmas gifts. Offer free wrapping that day.

Or make it an open-house day with family fun and refreshments for all your customers seeking peaceful refuge from the local mall scene. Have a few small door prizes or giveaways. Something to do for the kids. And, of course, the showroom is decorated for Christmas complete with big red ribbons or small Christmas trees on the bows of the boats. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly — and make money.

Perhaps creating a special event(s) is more for you. Depending on the primary interests of your customer base, hold a live introduction/demo on the hottest new electronics. Host a fishing program(s) for your anglers. Team up with a local tackle store to present the newest fishing gear.

Many retail experts contend shoppers generally don’t shop at small businesses just for deals, albeit discounts still serve as incentives. Having an additional purpose for visiting your store can be important to many customers.

For example, on Small Business Saturday, customers can be encouraged to bring in, say, cans of food to be given to the local food bank; or bring a child’s toy for a local program like “Toys for Tots.” Perhaps pledging a portion of every sale on Small Business Saturday to a local recognized charity or a local family that’s faced a recent tragedy or the Wounded Warrior Project will provide a more compelling reason for shopping with you on Small Business Saturday. Such charitable-giving promotions can make a visit to your dealership more rewarding and memorable for your prospects and customers, not to mention the impact such can have on your staff.

Bottom line: Because this annual event is now widely recognized, it presents a good opportunity to draw more customers into your dealership and boost holiday sales at a time when aggressive marketing, like participating in Small Business Saturday, is needed.


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