Small Business Saturday grows; also, kudos to McConoughey

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The buying public continues to embrace Small Business Saturday as statistics, local and national, show the event got bigger again this year, it's third in existence.

In fact, half of the retailers said they had more shoppers on Small Business Saturday than they did the previous day, the infamous Black Friday, according to the Heartland Partnership and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

The Heartland Partnership and Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce survey more than 40 area retailers after Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday after Thanksgiving and was founded in 2010 by American Express. Of those surveyed 56 percent had more shoppers on Small Business Saturday this year than in 2011 and 50 percent said they had more on Saturday than on Black Friday. Also, 56 percent of the shoppers who came in that day said they were aware of Small Business Saturday.

Another 40 percent said sales were up this year compared with Small Business Saturday in 2011.

"Most of the retailers we have talked with said they were happy with the program and look forward to being a part of it again next year," said Renee Charles, director of public affairs and media relations for the Heartland Partnership.

The program to which she referred was one in which the Heartland Partnership, Peoria chamber and chambers of commerce in surrounding communities banded together to boost awareness of the special day for small retailers and businesses. This year it included doormats and sign promoting Small Business Saturday. Also, American Express handed out $25 gift cards to be used at participating retailers that day in exchange for shoppers signing a commitment to shop those participating retailers.

That was a nice gesture. But there was one problem with it, as my wife discovered on Small Business Saturday. Those gift cards were American Express gift cards and not every store takes American Express. In fact, she found that relatively few around here do.

But hey, she was able to find one and use the gift card. A free $25 is still $25 so she was willing to look a little harder.

Excuse me, I digressed. Back to the Small Business Saturday results.

Charles at the Heartland Partnership not only has there been growth each year in shoppers but in the number of retailers participating.

"The key is getting the region's small businesses to get more involved. This program requires their participation; they have to take action to make Small Business Saturday work for them.  We saw more businesses get engaged this year than last year and we hope to get more on board in the years to come," Charles said. 

Growth in the number of shoppers has been gratifying to see, she said.

"We realize it's going to take time to re-train shoppers to think about small businesses on the weekend that has always been focused on big box stores and big sales but we are making great strides through this program to bring awareness to how important small businesses are to each and every community," Charles said.

Nationally,  the second installment of the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, released Thursday by the NFIB and American Express, showed consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 67 percent from 34 percent just two weeks ago. Of those aware, nearly half,  47 percent, shopped on Small Business Saturday.

"The increased awareness translated into higher spending. Those U.S. consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants. Pre-holiday surveys estimated that U.S. consumers would spend $5.3 billion," the NFIB said in a news release.

American Express said Cardmember transactions at small business merchants rose approximately 21 percent compared with last year's Small Business Saturday.

Pre-holiday surveys estimated that U.S. consumers would spend $5.3 billion. "This success is due to the business owners, the consumers and the community leaders who made it happen," the NFIB said.

It said that online tools and materials were leveraged more than 100,000 times by small business owners to help get the word out about Small Business Saturday and that more than 213,000 tweets were sent in support of Small Business Saturday in November. "This includes consumers spreading the word about the national initiative and business owners promoting offers they created specifically for the day," it said.

The NFIB survey quoted small business owners nationwide, all saying their business got a nice bump on Small Business Saturday.

Now, if shoppers will just start patronizing those small, independently owned businesses throughout the year it would assure the success of a lot of them. I'm all for that, aren't you?

Kudos to Jim McConoughey

The report that came out on Thursday that shows the Peoria region ranked third in the nation in high-tech growth is significant, of course. So, too, were the kudos to the Heartland Partnership and Peoria NEXT that were sent out by the West Coast advocacy group that commissioned the study for the work done to make Peoria so successful in that endeavor.

The study looked at the job growth through 2011, just last year. 

Those kudos, in my opinion, should mostly go to Jim McConoughey. He guided the creation of Peoria NEXT and the Peorian NEXT Innovation Center during his tenure of heading up the Heartland Partnership and always believed the amount of brain power this region possessed made it a prime candidate for high-tech job growth.

McConoughey, you may recall, was forced to resign from the Heartland Partnership earlier this year because other civic leaders didn't like the direction economy development was going.  

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).