'High Street Heroes' gear up for Small Business Saturday

'High Street Heroes' gear up for Small Business Saturday

Indie bookshops are gearing up to welcome shoppers with events and promotions tomorrow (6th December) to mark Small Business Saturday.

The initiative is in its second year in the UK. It is supported by American Express (Amex), which will give its customers £5 back when they spend more than £10 in a store participating in Small Business Saturday. The Amex offer applies to purchases made in participating stores until 21st December.

The retail event to promote and support indie businesses began in the US in 2010, and is seen as independents’ “antidote” to Black Friday, another phenomenon imported from the US.

Chain and online retailers offered deep discounts last week on the day that many people received their November pay packets (28th), which led to a shopping frenzy, with police called to some supermarkets to keep shoppers calm.

Last year, £468m was paid to small companies by customers on Small Business Saturday, and its organisers are looking to improve on that figure this year.  

Nic Bottomley, owner of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, said he saw an uplift on the promotion day last year, with more people than usual using Amex cards to pay for purchases.  

Bottomley said: “The event seems to be on a trajectory; Amex has put more support behind it and it is reflecting the public mood. There is a local emphasis at the moment, a desire to preserve things that are different, to have different retailers’ experiences and to support the physical rather than the digital retailer.”

Bottomley also appears in a piece of artwork by Sir Peter Blake which celebrates 40 small UK businesses, commissioned to mark Small Business Saturday. Best known for creating cover artwork featuring famous 20th-century figures for the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Blake said: “Small shops and the great British shopkeeper have been at the forefront of British culture for hundreds of years.

“The notion of a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ is embedded in our folklore, and the wonderful variety of today’s independent shops—as well as the character that small businesses bring to a local area—make them an ideal subject matter for modern pop art.”

Book-ish, based in Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons National Park, has been named as one of the Top 100 Small Business Saturday organisations, and as a result its owner Emma Corfield-Walters has been invited to attend Downing Street by Chancellor George Osborne.

Corfield-Walters has driven a “Totally Locally” initiative in her town, and this week held a Christmas market to encourage people to shop locally. On Saturday, her shop will host The Stig (a.k.a. Ben Collins from “Top Gear”) for the launch of How to Drive (Macmillan), and will be offering customers homemade mince pies as well as hosting competitions and live music performances.

She said: “It’s been great. The local press have been interested, which gives us a boost, and people have been telling us they are going to try and do all their Christmas shopping locally. There are so many initiatives at the moment that are helping to boost local trade, but you have got to get involved and be enthusiastic about it. It is no use just putting a poster up in your shop—you have got to have conversations with customers and be proactive about engaging them.”

Southcart Books in Walsall will host local poet David Calcutt and 10 other poets on Saturday, while owner Scott Southey will be providing food and drink for customers. “I think it is only us and a clothes shop who are taking part [in Small Business Saturday] in our town, so I think there is a while to go before it gets big,” he said. “But I think it is a good idea and for us it should be a
good day.”

Jenny Mondes, manager of Sarum College Bookshop in Salisbury, which made the Top 100 Small Business Saturday list last year, will offer online shoppers a 20% discount to mark the first birthday of the shop’s website. She will also offer 10% off to customers who mention the fact that it is Small Business Saturday in store.

“There have been television adverts this year, which has helped to boost awareness of Small Business Saturday, but I think it will take a bit longer to take off,” she said. “It is coming almost a week after Black Friday . . . this is our antidote to that.”

Several local councils—such as Sefton Council in Merseyside and New Forest Council in Hampshire—are also offering free parking on 6th December.

National campaign director Michelle Ovens said: “We always said we wanted this to be the start of something amazing; a regular event that shines a light on small businesses throughout the UK in a way which is hugely beneficial to both the local and the national economy. Small Business Saturday reinforces that message and demonstrates the level of diversity, innovation and talent that is active within our small business sector.”