5 Reasons Small Businesses Don’t Rely On Black Friday

Black Friday (a term born in the 1960s when Philadelphia cops complained about holiday shopping traffic) has become an increasingly important event for the likes of Walmart, Target, BestBuy, and other big box stores. Last year, about 141 million consumers took advantage of the day’s famous deals, with the average customer spending a little over $400. For small businesses, however, Black Friday doesn’t hold nearly as much sway. Here’s why you aren’t alone if your business isn’t dependent on the Black Friday craze.

1. For most small businesses, Black Friday isn’t a determinant of overall holiday sales

According to a 2014 Volusion merchant report, while 64% of SMBs claimed that the holiday season itself is important for their overall success, only 37% claimed that Black Friday is vital to the final results of their holiday season. And according to a 2012 Bank of America report, 91% of SMB owners said that Black Friday has little to no impact on their business’s bottom line. Which makes sense considering how hard it is for SMBs to compete with larger chains when it comes to marketing budget and price points. If you know that Black Friday isn’t going to make or break your holiday sales results very much, it makes sense to put your holiday sales energies elsewhere.

2. Many small business owners are busy preparing for Small Business Saturday

Originally conceived by the folks at American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday has become a valuable counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Saturday event is meant to encourage patronage of smaller brick-and-mortar businesses. In 2011, small business merchants saw a 23% increase in all transactions on Small Business Saturday, and other SMBs are getting in on the action. AmEx has set up a Small Business Locator Registry to guide shoppers to the event, and in some small towns more than 100 businesses have already registered. For tips and tools to maximize Small Business Saturday for your business, see our list below.

3. It’s difficult for small businesses to compete with the advertising machines of nationwide chains

Earl Apfelbaum, a Philadelphia stamp dealer, was the first merchant to advertise Black Friday. As the day became more integrated into our collective consciousness (in large part thanks to advertising’s “coming of age”), big box stores began dominating the day. Eventually, the big chains claimed this retail “holiday” as their own, putting massive resources into marketing and advertising special deals and offers. Last year, major retailers spent just over a quarter of a billion dollars on Black Friday ads alone. By contrast, the average SMB spends a mere $400 per month on marketing, according to a Chamber of Commerce survey. Even if your monthly marketing budget is higher than this, it can be a Herculean battle to compete with the big box giants.

4. Small businesses often can’t price-slash like big box retailers

It’s a fact we’re all aware of: because big box stores buy in huge volume, they can afford to offer deep discounts. Local SMBs simply can’t match those prices while still remaining profitable, so they have no choice but to sell at a higher price. And while a loyal customer base may keep our small businesses afloat, it’s difficult for SMBs to compete in a competitive event like Black Friday, which is entirely based on price slashing.

5. Small business owners are joining the “Black Friday is ruining Thanksgiving” movement

Over the years, Black Friday has morphed into what is now being called “Gray Thursday” — meaning that stores now start their sales on Thursday night. Macy’s and Best Buy are opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, with Walmart’s in-store “Doorbuster” deals starting at the same time. Many view these early sales as enticing consumers (and forcing employees) to swap family togetherness for consumerism, and groups across the country are voicing their protest. Boycott Black Thursday, a Facebook group encouraging shoppers to steer clear of Thanksgiving Day sales, has amassed over 100,000 likes, while chains like Costco, Nordstrom, and T.J. Maxx have agreed to keep their doors closed until Friday. More small businesses are keeping their doors closed on both Thursday and Friday, including Free Radicals, a clothing store in Albuquerque that’s viewing the days as their “own quiet version of protest of incredible commercial excess in the season.” Von Maur, an Iowa-based department store, is also staying closed in a stand for family values: “We’ve never been tempted that you would sacrifice the importance of family and holiday tradition and try to convince yourself that it will be more profitable,” said COO Melody Wright in an interview with Today Money.


As a small business owner, it makes sense to play a game you can win — in other words, focus on Small Business Saturday rather than Black Friday to jump start your holiday sales.


• American Express has set up a site full of free resources, including free online ads to promote your business, sample email templates and social posts, a “Shop Small” business locator registry, and more.
Bing and Yelp are both offering $100 in free advertising credits upon signup.
• Fedex is offering free printing for business promotion.
• Make sure to check out the Small Business Saturday Facebook page for other tools and resources.