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Small Business Saturday is a big deal for some retailers this year

Published November 22, 2023

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For some retailers like Russ Chandler, the upcoming Small Business Saturday is a big deal following a trying year in the industry.

Amid a glut of inventory following the COVID-19 peak demand, retailers BRAIN contacted are planning sales this weekend to spike demand, especially during the slowing winter buying season ahead.

"We're definitely using it as an opportunity to reach out to customers," said Russ Chandler, owner of Full Cycle in Boulder. "The bicycle industry has kind of thrown itself into a recession at this point. Some of the leading brands have horribly overproduced and gotten ahead of themselves. And so the proverbial race to the bottom has occurred."

Chandler recently hired a marketing team that has come up with a strategy for Small Business Saturday, which started in 2010 by American Express as a day to celebrate and support small businesses and what they do for their communities. According to the 2022 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, U.S. consumers visiting retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday spent about $17.9 billion.

Also according to the survey, 72% of the shoppers said Small Business Saturday "makes them want to shop and dine at small, independent retailers and restaurants all year long."

However, a BRAIN poll posted Friday afternoon, "Retailers, do you have anything special planned for Small Business Saturday," shows 73% consider Small Business Saturday as just another day and have nothing special planned.

Heather Mason, NBDA president, is encouraging participation. 

“This annual event presents a unique opportunity for our industry to showcase the vibrant, community-centric nature of local bicycle shops,” she said. “Small Business Saturday is not just a day; it's a celebration of the vital role local businesses play in our communities. By participating wholeheartedly and creatively, retailers have the chance to make a lasting impact and showcase the unique value that bicycle retailers bring to the local economy.”

Full Cycle using Instagram

Full Cycle officially will announce plans on Friday with a 50-second video on Instagram.

In addition, Chandler will be closed on Black Friday, encouraging his employees to get outside. The video will explain what Full Cycle is offering — including a flash sale — on Saturday and Sunday.

"The strategy here is to lean into Small Business Saturday, to say we're a local business in your community, and we're the place where you can rely on your bike being taken care of by people who know what they're doing," Chandler said. "We're not corporate. We're here to support the people of our community and our employees who are struggling to keep busy right now. It's hard. We have to ride this out. There's a lot of negative cash flow. If you're in a region that has a winter like where we are, the bike business goes dormant. The crash and the winter hitting at the same time is putting a lot of pressure on businesses like mine and others."

The industry downturn following the COVID boom has been especially harsh, Chandler said.

"Three years ago as we were enjoying the 'boom,' I think a lot of us in the back of our mind were thinking that the bike industry was going to have a soft landing. We're not. We're having a very, very hard landing. It's a struggle to survive as a bike retailer. Many of the largest and most successful retailers are absorbing losses. The only reason they can survive those losses is because they have money in the bank or they've got a valuable asset and that it's worth riding it out."

Boone, N.C., retailer plans gift card promo

In addition to having individual items on sale during Small Business Saturday, Boone Bike & Touring in Boone, North Carolina, will offer a "Give & Get, Spend & Save" gift card promotion.

Customers spending over $200 between now and Christmas are given a gift card valid for the first three months of 2024 to encourage shopping during the retailer's slow months. Gift card amounts vary depending on the purchase price. For example, a purchase between $200 and $299 earns a $25 gift card. Gift card amounts go as high as $150 for purchases of $1,000 or more.

"We make sure they know why we're making them use them during that time period and will email a reminder before the end of March," said co-owner Sarah Brown. "It seems to work pretty well. This is something we've been doing since 2015."

At Phat Tire Bike Shop in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, a four-day sale begins Black Friday with 20% markdowns on bikes, trikes, and racks, and 30% off accessories like helmets and shoes. Non-profit Downtown Bentonville is hosting a Shop the Block event to get people out. It will award $10,000 in "downtown dollars" to local families for Small Business Saturday.

Big sale at Phat Tire Bike Shop

Families began registering on Tuesday for $20 in "downtown dollars" that can be used at participating businesses on Saturday, including Phat Tire. The nearby Walmart Museum provided a portion of the funds.

"We are having probably the biggest sale we've had since I've been with the company," said Gretchen Rogers, Phat Tires marketing manager, who was hired in June 2020.

While down from the COVID boom, Phat Tire's sales are above where they were in 2018 and 2019, Rogers said. The retailer has 13 locations, with the flagship Bentonville location the largest.

"We're not looking at this in a panicky way. We're getting back to normal competition, normal inventory levels, and that means we need to get back on top of being everybody's favorite bike shop and being hospitable and welcoming everybody in," said Rogers, who added the Bentonville store will be open Sunday, too. "We always tell people we want to treat our customers the way we treat family members that we love. I want to be treated the same way somebody would treat my beloved grandmother when they come in to buy a bike."

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