American Express doubles down on ‘Shop Small’

Photo: American Express
Nov 14, 2016

Building on the increasing popularity of Small Business Saturday, American Express is launching a new double points program, introducing a number of community events to support the day, and partnering with Shaquille O’Neal.

The four-time NBA champion, who retired in 2011 and owns a number of fast-food franchises, has been recruited to raise awareness of American Express’s new Shop Small for 2X Rewards offer via a number of comical online videos. Under the program, American Express card members earn double rewards points for purchases made at qualifying small businesses through Dec. 31.

Shop Small evolved as a way to extend the benefits of Small Business Saturday throughout the holiday season. American Express has also ramped up investments in the Saturday event, which takes place on November 26 and generated $16.2 billion in 2015. Launched in 2010, American Express claims the day has “become a national holiday alongside Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

Among the new programs for 2016:

  • Dance + Yoga Sesh with Daybreaker: Early-morning workouts and dance parties will take place in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago featuring DJs, performers and yoga/fitness, as well as food and beverages from local businesses.
  • Free Uber Rides in NYC: Free UberPOOL rides (up to $20) will be offered to card members in all five boroughs with a promo code.
  • Dine Small with The Infatuation: Independent restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Diego will hold events featuring local menu items to celebrate the day and encourage consumers to shop at independents year-round.
  • Neighborhood Champions: More than 4,000 small business owners, individuals and community organizations have pledged to host events and activities to rally their communities on Small Business Saturday.

Said Elizabeth Rutledge, EVP, global advertising and brand management at American Express, “This year, we want all kinds of small businesses to get involved — from fitness studios, to cafés, to retail stores and restaurants — so we’ve created even more ways for Americans to participate on Small Business Saturday, whether you’re a night owl or morning person.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the best ways for small retail business owners and local communities to support Small Business Saturday and the Shop Small movement? Do you see the Small Business Saturday and Shop Small gaining or losing momentum?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Small businesses need to do more than “wait to participate” in events."
"Small community businesses have a potential for significant differential advantage. Find it and use it."
"As a company embedded in the heart of Ann Arbor, we’ve seen firsthand just how successful the shop local/shop small movement can be..."

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9 Comments on "American Express doubles down on ‘Shop Small’"

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Chris Petersen, PhD.

Events and participation in “Shop Small” is a good way to start awareness of the “local” aspects of retail. But holiday “Shop Small” awareness is temporal and transient. To survive, small businesses need to develop the competencies and marketing disciplines to leverage presence year round.

Said another way, small businesses need to do more than “wait to participate” in events. They need to have a strategy and plans to self promote these kinds of events to their customers through social media, websites and stores. In addition to promoting the “shop small/local” theme, small businesses need to put their own unique spin on their value propositions and why customers PURCHASE locally with them.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

This is a notable investment by American Express. However, a one-off event is not enough to provide a sustainable difference for small businesses. The key is for these small and neighborhood businesses to collaborate on strategies and tactics that give customers a reason to bypass the malls and online sellers.
One approach is to develop a sense of community around small businesses similar to those felt back in the day of small towns. Celebrate and involve the community: invite the local high school band and cheerleaders, engage dietitians and nutritionists to help people eat better, provide health screening by local medical providers, have reps from the local gyms and chiropractors give chair massages, have the local community library offer a book swap. The only limit is one’s imagination.

Small community businesses have a potential for significant differential advantage. Find it and use it.

David Livingston
4 years 7 months ago

Amex used to give actual cash rebates up to about $25 so I could go get $25 worth of stuff from a small retailer for free. Now it’s points. Or giveaways don’t apply. Too little, not enough. Most of the shops outlined in my area are someone’s hobby and not an actual business I would ever shop. Either give the customers actual cash back or drop the program. If this were a meaningful program they would be doing it every day and not just once a year.

Jeff Hall

As a company embedded in the heart of Ann Arbor, we’ve seen firsthand just how successful the shop local/shop small movement can be, not just on Small Business Saturdays, but throughout the year. The sustainable small businesses are those whose owners create consistent visibility on social media, are actively involved in promoting the region and who collaborate together to create a genuine sense of community and destination, through an ongoing calendar of special events and community gatherings.

These small businesses are also educating customers on the importance of shopping local and of the positive impact it has on the economic health and diversity of businesses in our community. We see Small Business Saturday as continuing to grow in momentum.

Al McClain

Small businesses should take advantage of the materials AmEx and advertising is giving them, build a whole day around this on the 26th, and get creative with what they are selling, as one of the above articles mentions. Offer food samples or Hor d’oeuvres, have a little music or entertainment, have fun with it. Offer unique products or bundles that can’t be price compared. Give customers a reason to come back. And, point out to customers that they will get double points if they return before the end of the year. This is the time to start building relationships.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Contributing Editor, RetailWire; Founder and CEO, Vision First
4 years 7 months ago

AMEX is giving small businesses some great visibility with this movement. However, to sustain this momentum, individual companies need to connect with consumers so they are consistently relevant.

Craig Sundstrom

“Diminishing returns: noun: when a good idea is so successful that it is expanded or imitated to the point that it no longer has value.”

Where were we? Oh yes. I was passing by a shop Saturday and I noticed in the window a small sign for this event; at the same time a phrase that appeared on RW last week — “contrived event” — crossed my mind.

While I wish small merchants well, I just don’t think yet ANOTHER promo event — particularly one tied to using a specific credit card — is ever going to really amount to much … regardless of what grandiose claims Amex makes for it.

William Hogben

It’s difficult for small businesses to accept American Express, and while the double-points may encourage pressure from shoppers to sign up, I doubt it will have much impact. My experience as an AmEx customer is that I always need a backup MasterCard or VISA for small stores who, with varying levels of apology or frustration, tell me that they do not take American Express.

This promotion therefore feels out of character to me — from my own experiences I associate AmEx only with big businesses and, while I trust Shaq on basketball related issues, he is not going to sway my perspective here.

American Express should be offering the small businesses double-points to sign up, not offering the shoppers double-points to try and be rebuffed at more small businesses.

Karen S. Herman

The best way for any local retailer to support Small Business Saturday is to go all-in and take advantage of the materials and programs provided by #ShopSmall. This year, in particular, the scope of marketing materials available and support given online are impressive. From a bandana for the store mascot, to balloons, pennants, selfie hearts, and unique experiences to mark the day, this movement is all about giving and sharing love for local business and having a good time while you participate.

Honestly, it just feels good to know you’re supporting your local economy and helping small business owners survive and thrive. So go ahead … #ShopSmall on November 26th. Chances are that you’ll enjoy every minute.

"Small businesses need to do more than “wait to participate” in events."
"Small community businesses have a potential for significant differential advantage. Find it and use it."
"As a company embedded in the heart of Ann Arbor, we’ve seen firsthand just how successful the shop local/shop small movement can be..."

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