Small Business Saturday: Corporate Catchphrase Takes On Life Of Its Own

By Matthew Sturdevant
The Hartford Courant.

It started as a promotion by American Express four years ago, but now Small Business Saturday is growing in eclectic ways — from shop to shop, and town to town.

In 2010, the financial services giant coined the term Small Business Saturday, offering incentives to its credit card users who bought items from independently owned businesses. It was a way to remind consumers that there’s more to holiday shopping than Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Despite its infancy as a corporate mantra, Small Business Saturday is taking hold in some towns where local people seize the opportunity to promote gift shops, clothing stores, restaurants and any other local enterprise. The offers depend largely on the initiative and creativity of the individuals who pull it all together.

A food co-op in New London is hosting an organic- and gluten-free pancake breakfast. A shop in Enfield is handing out handmade gifts to the first 25 customers. There’s a raffle in Glastonbury and a scavenger hunt in Torrington. American Express also suggests events: a fun run, a family day, a kick-off breakfast or a “passport” that can be used to get customers to visit various stores.

“It has really taken off,” said Andrew Markowski, Connecticut director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small-business association with offices in all 50 states, which also promotes the event with American Express.

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